roactive strategies for promoting good
heart health should begin at birth, yet most
American children do not meet the American
Heart Association’s definition of ideal
childhood cardiovascular health, according
to a new scientific statement published in the American
Heart Association journal Circulation.
“Instead of taking a wait-and-see approach by
treating disease later in adulthood, we should help
children maintain the standards of ideal cardiovascular
health that most children are born
with,” said Julia Steinberger, M.D.,
M.S., lead author of the new statement,
professor in pediatrics and director of
pediatric cardiology at the University of
Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Seven key health factors and
behaviors are used to determine
whether a child’s cardiovascular health
• not using tobacco products;
• maintaining a healthy body weight;
• getting at least 60 minutes per day
of moderate to vigorous physical
• eating a healthy diet, as well as
having healthy cholesterol, blood
pressure and blood glucose levels.
“Engaging in these ideal health
behaviors early in life can have a
tremendous benefit on maintaining ideal health throughout
the lifespan,” said Steinberger.
Data from a 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey found that children in the United
States were not meeting most of the American Heart
Association’s definition of ideal cardiovascular health.
Nearly all children in the study — about 91 percent
— scored poorly on diet measures. In fact, the study
found that children 2 to 19 years old get the bulk of their
daily calories from simple carbohydrates such as sugary
desserts and beverages.
Similarly, the level of physical activity was not enough
to protect their hearts. Among children ages 6 to 11
years old, half of the boys and just over a third of the
girls were active for the recommended 60 minutes or
more per day. As children reached 16 to 19 years of age,
the percentage meeting the recommended amount of
physical activity decreased even further, to 10 percent in
boys and 5 percent in girls.
Not surprisingly, the effects of poor diet and physical
inactivity affected body weight. Among 2- to 5-year-olds,
about 10 percent were obese based on their body mass
index (BMI) — a measure of body weight based on height.
In the 12- to 19-year-old age group, the percentage of
obesity soared to between 19 percent and 27 percent.
Among these older children, the rate of cigarette smoking
was surprisingly high. In fact, approximately one-third of
12- to 19-year-olds reported trying a cigarette.
“As pediatricians, we see a tremendous opportunity to
strive towards true cardiovascular health if we think of the
factors that maintain health early in life. It’s much harder to
turn back the clock,” Steinberger said.
Source: American Heart Association News
About the Kids
CHILDREN SCORE LOW ON
CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH MEASURES