OKLAHOMA CITY — Heart disease and other cardiovascular issues are no longer only an issue for older Americans. New research reveals teens 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.
Shay said the study reveals that during teenage years, 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 4,600 children between age 12 and 19.
Shay said seven health behaviors and health factors define cardiovascular health: smoking, body mass index, healthy diet, physical activity, blood pressure, blood glucose and 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. 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 smoking status, too.
Shay said the low prevalence of ideal cardiovascular health behaviors in U.S. adolescents, particularly physical activity and dietary intake, will likely lead to worsening prevalence of obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and high blood glucose levels as the current U.S. adolescent population reaches adulthood.
Shay said two things are needed to improve the outlook for teens. First, medical providers need to emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to teenagers and their parents. Second, a major shift concepts of disease prevention will be necessary.