Children who eat high-calorie, low-nutrition food and avoid eating healthy are at risk of having poor heart health, a new study has suggested.
Seven key health factors and behaviour are used to determine whether a child’s cardiovascular health is ideal – not using tobacco products, maintaining a healthy body weight, getting at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, eating a healthy diet as well as having healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
“Engaging in these ideal health behaviours early in life can have a tremendous benefit on maintaining ideal health throughout the lifespan,” said Julia Steinberger, Researcher at the University of Minnesota in the study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
In the study about 91 per cent children scored poorly on diet measures and found that children aged between 2 to 19 years old get the bulk of their daily calories from simple carbohydrates such as sugary desserts and beverages.
Similarly, the level of physical activity was not enough to protect their hearts and the effects of poor diet and physical inactivity affected body weight and the percentage of obesity was also high. Surprisingly, among these older children, the rate of cigarette smoking was high.
However, the healthiest metric for children was blood pressure, with nearly all children in the ideal group. Most children also had ideal measurements for total blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
“Proactive strategies for promoting good heart health should begin at birth, yet most children do not meet the definition of ideal childhood heart health. 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,” added Steinberger.