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03-04-2013 | Metabolism | Article

Unhealthy behaviors in adolescents prompt heart disease fears


Free abstract

medwireNews: Unhealthy behaviors in teenagers may result in a significant increase in cardiovascular diseases in the future, suggest researchers.

"The low prevalence of ideal cardiovascular health behaviors in US adolescents, particularly physical activity and dietary intake, will likely contribute to a worsening prevalence of obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and dysglycemia as the current US adolescent population reaches adulthood," write Christina Shay (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, USA) and colleagues in Circulation.

Using data collected from 4673 12- to 19-year-old adolescents taking part in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Shay and colleagues assessed the population prevalence of several cardiovascular health behaviors and factors grading each one as poor, intermediate, or ideal for the relevant age group and gender. These were: smoking status, body mass index (BMI), physical activity level, diet, cholesterol level, blood pressure, and blood glucose level.

The best findings were observed for blood pressure, as 78% of boys and 90% of girls had ideal levels; the worst were recorded for diet, as less than 1% of boys and girls had an ideal Healthy Diet Score.

Regarding the other factors, most teenagers had ideal blood glucose levels, at 74% of boys and 89% of girls. Around two thirds of boys and girls had ideal total cholesterol levels, at 72% and 65%, respectively, with similar results seen for BMI and smoking status, at 66% and 67% and 66% and 70%, respectively.

Ideal physical activity levels were relatively poor, at 44% for boys and 67% for girls. When diet and exercise were combined, more than 80% of those surveyed had a poor diet and were not physically active.

Looking at the seven cardiovascular health components combined, less than 50% of the participants had five or more of the factors at an ideal level.

"These findings indicate that the prevalence of ideal levels of the cardiovascular health components among adolescents is alarmingly low and the prevalence of poor and intermediate cardiovascular health behaviors and factors in this age group is disconcertingly high," say Shay and team.

"Population-wide emphasis on establishment of ideal cardiovascular health behaviors early in life is essential for maintenance of ideal cardiovascular health throughout the lifespan," they conclude.

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter