A new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) has raised concern over the cardiovascular health of many children in the United States.
The new scientific statement, which was published in the journal Circulation on Thursday, Aug. 11, revealed that most children in the United States have poor heart health, with only 1 percent of American children able to meet the AHA's definition of ideal childhood cardiovascular health.
The AHA recommends that children eat a healthy diet, maintain healthy body weight, engage in at least an hour of physical activity daily, avoid tobacco products as well as maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels to have good heart health.
Poor diet appears to be the biggest obstacle for young people to have ideal heart health, with more than 90 percent of the children in the United States found to have unhealthy diet.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey covering the period between 2007 and 2008 showed that 91 percent of children did not score well on dietary measures. Kids between 2 and 19 years old consume a lot of simple carbohydrates such as sweet beverages and sugary desserts, and these types of food accounted for most of the calories they consume every day.
The next factor that drives poor cardiovascular health in children is a low level of physical activity. It appears that many kids have a sedentary lifestyle and do not engage in activities that make them move. In children between 6 and 11 years old, only half of the boys and more than one-third of the girls engage in the recommended amount of physical activity daily.
The rate of engagement in physical activity is low among those in the 16- and 19-year-old age bracket, with only 10 percent of the boys and 5 percent of the girls doing the recommended amount of physical activity every day.
Of the children between 2 and 5 years old, 10 percent had BMI that equates them to be considered as obese. The rate of obesity in children between 12 and 19 years old was also high, rising between 19 and 27 percent. One-third of the children in this age group also tried using a cigarette.
Experts said it is crucial to be concerned over cardiovascular health early in life.
"We see a tremendous opportunity to strive toward true cardiovascular health if we think of the factors that maintain health early in life," said statement co-author Julia Steinberger from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, adding that it is more difficult to turn back the clock.