The Norman Transcript


April 1, 2013

OU researcher finds worrisome trends in teen lifestyle choices

OKLAHOMA CITY — Heart disease and other cardiovascular issues are no longer only an issue for older Americans. New research reveals teens in this country are affected too.

The study was undertaken by a team of researchers headed by Christina Shay, Ph.D., of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. They evaluated the health of America’s teenagers, especially when it comes to their cardiovascular health.

"Almost all children are born in the state of ideal cardiovascular health," said Shay, a faculty member with the OU College of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

However, she said the study reveals that during the teenage years those children frequently make unhealthy choices that negatively impact their cardiovascular health, including smoking, poor diet choices and a lack of physical activity.

The researchers combed through data found in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The 2005-2010 surveys produced a "snapshot" of cardiovascular health among about 4600 children between the ages of 12 and 19. Shay said seven health behaviors and health factors define cardiovascular health. These are:

- Smoking

- Body mass index (BMI)

- Healthy diet

- Physical activity

- Blood pressure

- Blood glucose

- Total cholesterol

Each of the children is rated on all seven factors as poor, intermediate or ideal.

The research found that virtually all teens fall short in the area of diet. In fact, none of the male teens had ideal healthy diet scores and only 0.1 percent of female teens had an ideal score. In addition fewer than 50 percent of the teens achieved the ideal rating in five or more of the seven cardiovascular health measures.

Some of the results were less discouraging. Ideal blood pressure was generally high – 77.7 percent for male teens and 90.2 percent for females. About two-thirds of the teens had an ideal BMI and ideal smoking status too.

"Smoking rates are decreasing among teenage groups," says Dr. Shay, "but as we know there are higher rates of obesity, higher rates of sedentary activity and diets are becoming more unfavorable."

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