Nearly 90% Of American Children Have Poor Heart Health, New Study Finds

First Posted: Aug 12, 2016 06:28 AM EDT

A new study has found that a lot of U.S. children don't meet good heart health standards. The American Heart Association analyzed data from a 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that less than 1 percent of children meet the ideal cardiovascular health standards.

Lead author Dr. Julia Steinberger, director of pediatric cardiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, pointed out diet and physical activity as the primary reasons for children's poor heart health. During the study, it came into light that around 91 per cent of youngsters were not consuming healthy diets. In fact, it was found that most of the children aged 2 to 19 years get the most of their daily calories from simple carbohydrates such as sugary desserts and beverages, reported UPI.

Dr. Steinberger said that most of the children are consuming high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and that they are not having enough healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, fish and other foods which are very much important for a good heart health and a healthy body weight.

The study, which has been published in the journal Circulation, found that lack of physical activity in children is another factor that is adversely affecting heart health. Only around half of the boys and a third of girls aged between 6 and 11 years meet the minimum recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. The percentage dropped to 10 percent in boys and 5 percent in girls in the age group of 16 to 19, reported Reuters.

Obesity in children is another concern. It was found that around 10 percent of children aged 2 to 5 were obese. The obesity percentage was found to be between 19 percent and 27 percent in the 12 to 19 year-old age group. What's alarming is the fact that the rate of cigarette smoking was surprisingly high in older kids. About a third of 12 to 19 year-olds reported to have tried a cigarette. However, nearly all the children had ideal blood pressure and most had ideal cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

"As pediatricians, we see a tremendous opportunity to strive toward true CV health if we think of the factors that maintain health early in life. It's much harder to turn back the clock," Steinberger said. "Kids are born with ideal health," she added. "So if we could make the effort to improve some of these elements, especially the diet and physical activity, I think we would have a much healthier young adult and adult population."

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