Over 70% of American children have poor heart health

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Less than 30% of American children had high cardiovascular health scores.

This is the first study in the United States to measure cardiovascular health using the American Heart Association’s new criteria and assessment.

According to the first study to use the new Life’s Essential 8 metrics and American Heart Association assessment methodology to assess cardiovascular health status in adults and children, most children and adolescents in the United States have poor cardiovascular health scores ( CVH). Overall, less than 30% of children aged 2 to 19 had high CVH.

The number of children with high CVH decreased significantly with age: 56% of 2- to 5-year-olds had high CVH, compared to 33% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 14% of 12- to 19-year-olds. The research was published in the journal Traffic.

“We found that U.S. children had the lowest dietary metric scores, which is comparable to what we have seen in adults,” said senior author Amanda Marma Perak, MD, cardiologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Individuals and families who improve their eating habits can significantly improve their overall cardiovascular health, even independent of weight changes. In addition to families’ efforts to improve themselves, we also need policy-level support for better nutrition, such as E.g. subsidies for fruit and vegetable production or the provision of healthier food and the elimination of sugar-sweetened drinks in schools.”

The revised CVH definition includes eight components: sleep duration, a new metric, and modified versions of the previous seven metrics: diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, BMI, blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure. The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2013 to 2018 for their study. There were 13,521 adult participants and 9,888 children, representing more than 201 million people and 74 million children in the United States.

Only three CVH metrics (diet, physical activity, and BMI) were available in NHANES for all children aged 2 to 19 years. Additional measurements were added with increasing age: lipids at 6 years, blood pressure at 8 years, nicotine and glucose at 12 years, and sleep at 16 years.

“Maintaining better cardiovascular health at any age is associated with extremely favorable health outcomes,” said Dr. Marma Perak, the pediatric expert for the concurrent American Heart Association Presidential Advisory, which redefined the concept of CVH through the new metrics.

“Children with high CVH have a lower midlife burden of subclinical cardiovascular disease. And for children who manage to sustain high CVH into late adolescence or young adulthood, their risk of developing premature clinical cardiovascular disease over the next 30 years is extremely low. Ultimately, the new CVH measurements will allow clinicians and scientists to track changes more closely, so they can intervene earlier and put children on a healthier path into adulthood.”

Reference: “Cardiovascular health status in US adults and children using the American Heart Association’s new Life’s Essential 8 metrics: Prevalence estimates from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2013-2018” by Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, Hongyan Ning, Darwin Labarthe, LaPrincess Brewer, Garima Sharma, Wayne Rosamond, Randi E Foraker, Terrie Black, Michael A Grandner, Norrina B Allen, Cheryl Anderson, Helen Lavretsky, and Amanda M Perak, 29. June 2022, Traffic.
DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.060911

Research at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted by the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute.

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