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Many U.S. Teens Have Poor Health Habits
Date:4/1/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- More than 80 percent of U.S. teens eat unhealthy diets and many are sedentary, which raises the odds they'll develop heart disease in adulthood, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 4,600 teenagers, aged 12 to 19, and assessed their health behaviors based on criteria set by the American Heart Association. The poor health habits they uncovered translate into obesity and overweight, which in turn raise risk factors for high blood pressure and other predictors of cardiovascular trouble, the study authors noted.

"Most children are born in a state of ideal cardiovascular health, [but] the poor lifestyles many U.S. children exhibit are leading to a loss of this important asset earlier and earlier in life," said lead investigator Christina Shay, an assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology in the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

Childhood levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors strongly predict their threat in adulthood, Shay said. And the length of time young people live with elevated risk factors also has an impact on their heart health as adults, she added.

Based on the current findings, the United States may witness "increasing rates of heart attacks and strokes as the current generation of children reach adulthood compared to previous generations that had more favorable risk factors," she said.

The students, who participated in one of two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, are said to represent about 33 million teens nationwide. Their health behaviors were rated as poor, intermediate or ideal.

The heart association says cardiovascular health depends on seven factors: not smoking, maintaining a normal weight, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and maintaining low blood sugar, blood pr
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