Heart Health and Your Child

Heart health habits may be lacking in many US children

(RxWiki News) Many children in the United States may not be meeting ideal heart health goals defined by the American Heart Association, according to a new scientific statement.

This statement was published recently in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. The findings come from the study of data from a 2007-08 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 

These findings reveal the need for promoting good heart health at birth, versus waiting and seeing if one develops a condition and then treating that condition later in life, said the authors of this statement. 

According to these researchers, a child's heart health is thought to be ideal if he or she exhibits seven key behaviors and health factors:

  • Abstaining from tobacco products
  • Keeping a healthy body weight
  • Exercising for at least 60 minutes per day (moderate to vigorous physical activity)
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Having a normal cholesterol level
  • Having a normal blood pressure
  • Having normal blood glucose (sugar) levels

Dr. Julia Steinberger, lead author of this statement, said in a press release that "Engaging in these ideal health behaviors early in life can have a tremendous benefit on maintaining ideal health throughout the lifespan. A primary reason for so few children having ideal cardiovascular health is poor nutrition — children are eating high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and not eating enough healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and other foods strongly associated with good heart health and a healthy body weight.” 

About 91 percent of the children studied for this statement scored poorly on diet measures. Furthermore, the study found that a large percentage of children in the study did not meet the recommended amount of physical activity per day.

Poor diet and too little exercise negatively affected these children's body weight, the statement authors noted.

Regarding tobacco products, this study showed that the rate of cigarette smoking was high (33 percent) in the 12- to 19-year-old age group. 

Speak to your child's pediatrician about heart health.

This study's funding sources and conflicts of interest were not available at the time of publication.