How healthy are America’s teens? I take little solace in the statement that because of medical advances, our teens will likely live as long as their parents, but they will have quality-of-life issues.
A new University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center study states that while all children are born with almost ideal cardiovascular health, American teenagers are making unhealthy choices that negatively impact their health and will eventually catch up with them.
Seven health behaviors and health factors define cardiovascular health. These are:
– Not smoking – Body mass index (BMI) – Healthy diet
– Physical activity – Blood pressure – Blood glucose – Total cholesterol
The research found that virtually all teens fall short in the area of diet. NONE – zero – nada of the male teens had ideal healthy diet scores and only 0.1 percent of female teens had an ideal score. In addition fewer than 50 percent of the teens achieved the ideal rating in five or more of the seven cardiovascular health measures.
Dr. Christina Shay, Ph.D., who headed the OU Health Science study said the low prevalence of ideal cardiovascular health behaviors in U.S. adolescents, particularly physical activity and dietary intake, will likely lead to worsening prevalence of obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and high blood glucose levels as the current U.S. adolescent population reaches adulthood.
Here’s a staggering statement from the study – does this bother you as much as it does me? “If habits and behaviors don’t change, these teens may develop cardiovascular disease at younger ages than previous generations,” Dr. Shay said. Advancing medical technology will likely mean that these teenagers who go on to develop cardiovascular disease will be able to live longer with the disease than previous generations. “They could potentially still live as long or longer than their parents, but they’ll likely experience a lower health-related quality of life as they age.”
Shay says two things are needed to improve the bleak health outlook for teenagers today. First, medical providers need to more strongly emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to teenagers and their parents. Second, a major shift in social and cultural concepts of disease prevention will be necessary.
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Question: What you do today will impact your health tomorrow. Do we understand this?
The research appears in the online issue of the journal Circulation, a publication of the American Heart Association.