American Heart Association: Families Failing on Diet, Exercise

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

Children in the US have appalling heart health, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), and less than 1% of kids in America can meet the association's definition of model cardiovascular health, stated Dr. Julia Steinberger, a professor of pediatrics and director of pediatric cardiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

This is primarily the result of a poor diet, notes Steinberger:

"Unhealthy diet was shown to be present in greater than 90 percent of American children," she explains.

The next determinant is low levels of physical activity. These findings came from information from a 2007 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which the organization examined. The results were published in its journal, Circulation, writes David Oliver for US News and World Report.

Almost all the young people involved in the study (91%) scored poorly on dietary measures. Kids from 2-years-old to 19-years-old ate sugary desserts and drinks to such an extent that simple carbohydrates made up the majority of their daily calories.

Also, in young people from 6 to 11, only half of the boys and over a third of the girls got the 60 minutes of the daily physical activity needed. In the 16- to 19-year-old category, the rate dropped to 10% of boys and 5% of girls. Ten percent of kids from 2 to 5 were obese according to their Body Mass Index (BMI), and when young people reach 12 to 19, the obesity levels rose between 19-27%. Steinberger said:

"There are indications that the rate of obesity has plateaued in the sense that the number of newly diagnosed children with obesity has somewhat plateaued, However, unfortunately, what has emerged is that the rate of diagnosis of children with severe obesity, with extreme obesity, has been on the upsurge.

Along with these issues, children need to avoid tobacco products, maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. Steinberger added that although keeping well sounds pretty simple, it does take a considerable amount of commitment, not only from the child but also from the child's family.

Steinberger says health and behavior monitors, in the form of wearable technologies, will become an even more significant way to combat the problem.

Reuters reports that about one-third of American teens say they have at least tried smoking. This rate was somewhat higher for boys than girls.

The AHA release is related to the document published by the AHA in 2010 concerning US adults' heart health. A portion of this report involved children's cardiovascular wellness, but the information needed to be expanded upon, said Steinberger.

Schools also need to participate in promoting healthy lifestyles for young people. Steinberger added:

"If we don't take good care of our children's health, trying to implement these healthy lifestyle factors in adulthood will be extremely difficult and the yield will be a lot lower."

The Inquisitr's Scott Falkner says the AHA is very clear on what needs to be done to combat this health dilemma. Children should not smoke, should have a BMI less than the 85th percentile, and 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. They need to maintain a healthy diet, have a total cholesterol rating of less than 170 mg/dL, a blood pressure rating below the 90th percentile, and a fasting glucose level less than 100 mg/dL.

Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a co-author of the AHA statement, notes that pediatricians need to be the leaders in reversing this epidemic. He also points out the need for parents to model healthy behaviors for their children.

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