Teens Can Improve Heart Health

Healthy heart habits in teens may prevent future heart trouble in adulthood

(RxWiki News) Heart health starts with good habits during your teenage years. American teens may need to learn better heart healthy habits to maintain good health into adulthood.

A recent study evaluated a group of teenagers in the US for heart healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, not smoking and eating a healthy diet.

These researchers found that less than half of the teens practiced five or more of the seven ideal heart health behaviors.

The researchers suggested that, if teens start practicing heart healthy behaviors early, it will help reduce their risk of heart diseases as they get older.

"Exercise and eat healthy for a stronger heart."

Christina M. Shay, PhD, from the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and Hongyan Ning, MD, from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, teamed up for this study to investigate the heart health of teenagers in the US.

According to the authors, if a person can reach middle age in good heart health, the risk for heart trouble later in life becomes much lower, resulting in a longer life expectancy.

The authors estimated that nearly 80 percent of heart disease-related events could be prevented with proper heart health earlier in life.

The American Heart Association has defined heart health through seven healthy behaviors:

  • not smoking
  • having a healthy body mass index
  • eating a heart healthy diet
  • getting regular physical activity
  • maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  • regulating healthy blood sugar levels
  • keeping cholesterol in check

The researchers in this study looked at data on 4,673 US teens, 12 to 19 years of age, from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) between 2005 and 2010.

Each teen was assessed for all seven heart health behaviors and scored with a 0 for poor, 1 for intermediate and 2 for ideal heart health.

On average, 32 percent of the teens were either current or former smokers, 19 percent were obese and 16 percent were overweight. In addition, 18 percent were not physically active at all and 27 percent were not physically active enough.

The researchers found that, on average, 88 percent of the teens had poor diets and 0 percent had ideal healthy diets. Based on blood tests, 8 percent had poor cholesterol and 24 percent had intermediate cholesterol.

The researchers also found that 3 percent of the teens had poor blood pressure and 84 percent had ideal blood pressure, on average. Less than 1 percent had poor blood sugar control and 19 percent had intermediate blood sugar control.

To score overall ideal heart health, the teens had to have five or more signs of ideal heart health.

Only 45 percent of males and 50 percent females in the group had five or more ideal signs of heart health.

The study authors wrote that lack of physical activity and poor diet would likely contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and poor blood sugar control in US teens as they grow into adulthood.

The authors recommended promoting heart healthy behaviors to teens in order to achieve and maintain heart health as they enter adulthood.

This study was published in July in Circulation.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provided funding for this project. Dr. Daniels reported a prior financial relationship with Merck Pharmaceuticals. No other conflicts of interest were declared.

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Review Date: 
July 10, 2013