An alarming new study finds that you may think your child's heart is healthy, but you could be totally wrong.
A frightening new report by the American Heart Association has found that a huge percentage of children in the United States aren’t nearly as healthy as their parents probably think they are. The study found that many U.S. children don’t come close meeting the seven basic standards of good heart health, and that puts them at tremendous risk — both now and later on in their lives.
Scientists measured children against the following seven basics: a health body mass index (BMI); an appropriate amount of exercise; no smoking; consumption of a healthy diet; low cholesterol levels; good blood pressure; and good blood sugar levels, according to an AHA statement.
The researchers blamed bad diets and a lack of physical activity as the primary cause of children having bad heart health, and the extent of the problem is alarming: the report found that an astonishing 91 percent of U.S. children have a poor diet filled with sugar, and just half of young boys and a third of young girls between the ages of 6 and 11 were getting the recommended 60 minutes a day of physical activity. At the ages of 16 to 19, they were even less likely to meet that threshold. Also, the study found that a third of adolescents were trying cigarettes.
In order to be healthy, parents are advised to make sure their children aren’t smoking, that their BMI is below the 85th percentile, that they are getting enough exercise and a healthy diet, and that their blood pressure and blood sugar levels are in normal levels — regular visits with a pediatrician can help accomplish that.
“Instead of taking a wait-and-see approach by treating disease later in adulthood, we should help children maintain the standards of ideal cardiovascular health that most children are born with,” said Julia Steinberger, M.D., M.S., lead author of the new statement, professor in pediatrics and director of pediatric cardiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “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.”