Adolescents' poor health behaviors raise risk of heart disease as adults

U.S. adolescents' high levels of poor health behaviors and unfavorable cardiovascular risk factors may increase their chances of heart disease as adults, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Researchers estimated the current state of cardiovascular health of U.S. adolescents based on the seven cardiovascular health components defined in the 's 2020 impact goals, which include both health behaviors and factors: blood pressure, total cholesterol, (BMI), , healthy diet, physical activity and smoking. The 4,673 adolescents were 12-to 19-years-old and represented about 33.2 million adolescents nationally.

The participants were part of the National Health and Nutrition Surveys and were equally divided between males and females of all major ethnic groups. The number of U.S. adolescents that are categorized as poor, intermediate or ideal for each component of cardiovascular health was described to provide a current "snap shot" of how U.S. adolescents are doing with regard to heart health.

The healthy diet score (based on levels of , fish, whole-grains, salt and sugar-sweetened recommended by the recommended by the American Heart Association) was the least favorable measure for both boys and girls across ethnic groups—with more than 80 percent rated as having a , researchers said.

"The far less-than-optimal physical activity levels and dietary intake of current U.S. teenagers, is translating into obesity and overweight that, in turn, is likely influencing worsening rates of high blood pressure, and blood glucose at these young ages," said Christina M. Shay, Ph.D., M.A., study lead author and assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology in the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

They also found:

  • Less than 50 percent of the adolescents had five or more acceptable levels of the health factors (45 percent boys and 50 percent girls).
  • Less than 1 percent of boys and girls reached ideal healthy diet levels.
  • Forty-four percent of the girls and 67 percent of the boys reached ideal physical activity levels.
  • Two-thirds of adolescents had ideal BMI levels, 67 percent for girls compared to 66 percent for boys.
  • One-third of adolescents had total cholesterol levels in intermediate or poor ranges.
One encouraging finding is that the majority of boys and girls had never smoked a cigarette or didn't try to smoke one within the past 30 days of two interviews during the five-year study.

"The status of heart health during childhood has been shown to be a strong predictor of heart health in adulthood," Shay said. " Members of the medical and scientific community, parents, teachers and legislators all need to focus their efforts on the prevention and improvement of all aspects of cardiovascular health – particularly optimal physical activity levels and diet—as early in life as possible, beginning at birth."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Today's teens will die younger of heart disease

Nov 16, 2011

A new study that takes a complete snapshot of adolescent cardiovascular health in the United States reveals a dismal picture of teens who are likely to die of heart disease at a younger age than adults do today, reports Northwestern ...

New stats show America's heart health needs improvement

Dec 15, 2011

America's heart and blood vessel health is far from ideal, according to data in the American Heart Association's "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2012," published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart As ...

Recommended for you

Real-time volume imaging of hearts

21 hours ago

A new ultrasound system from Siemens enables doctors to carry out heart examinations through the esophagus for the first time. The system supplies 3D images of the heart as well as additional real-time information ...

Post-PCI bleeding rates vary widely across hospitals

Nov 27, 2014

(HealthDay)—Patient case-mix and procedural factors may contribute to wide variation in the hospital rates of bleeding after percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), according to research published online ...

Most seniors eligible for statin Rx under new guidelines

Nov 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Most older Americans qualify for treatment with statins under new guidelines for the treatment of blood cholesterol released late last year by the American College of Cardiology and the American ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.