Overweight and obese teenagers are at great risk for hypertension, prediabetes and other cardiovascular diseases, new research shows. According to findings published in the journal Pediatrics, American youths, in particular, adolescents whom are obese or overweight are at considerable risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Ashleigh May from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, led a team of researchers which investigated trends for certain cardiovascular disease factors (CVD) and their prevalence by obesity and overweight status among American adolescents.
To accomplish their objective, May's team used data from 3383 US teens (1771 male and 1612 female) between the ages of 12 - 19 years who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 - 2008. Obtaining participants' height and weight information from trained interviewers during physical examinations, self-reports, and home based interviews, the researchers learned some very important facts about the prevalence of CVD among US adolescents.
Statistically there was little change in the prevalence of obesity, overweight, hypertension, or LDL cholesterol, but diabetes and prediabetes prevalence skyrocket from 9% to 23%. A rapid increase in diabetes prevalence in such a young population suggests that diabetes will continue to be a worsening problem well into our nation's future.
As should be expected, CVD risk factors were lowest among normal weight teens; nonetheless, 37% were observed to have at least one CVD risk factor. Even worse, the data revealed that 49% of overweight teens and 61% of obese teens had 1 or more CVD risk factors in addition to the 1999- 2008 weight status.
May and her team also discovered that compared to normal weight teens, overweight adolescents had 2 CVD risk factors, and obese youth had 3 or more risk factors compared to normal weight adolescents. In other words, the heaviest teens are at greatest risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Based on the results of the data, May and her colleagues wrote: "The results of this study indicate that US adolescents bear a substantial burden of CVD risk factors, especially those youth who are overweight or obese."
The CDC team expressed concern that CVD problems could follow young people into adulthood, specifically mentioning the tendency for atherosclerosis to manifest in children as changes to the arterial wall. They went on to say the likelihood of carotid intima-media thickness increases among children at risk for cardiovascular disease, indicating they are at greater risk for atherosclerosis.
May and her colleagues concluded that, irrespective of weight status, a large proportion of teens would benefit from programs that encourage physical fitness and good nutrition, thereby reducing the severity and likelihood of future health problems.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Americans are less healthy than in previous decades. Cardiovascular disease and obesity - afflictions which are commonplace among the nation's elderly population - are now gaining a foothold on the nation's youth.
Most health scientists agree that lifestyle changes favoring regular exercise and sound eating habits can lower a person's risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. If our country hopes to turn the tide on these afflictions, then all Americans, regardless of age, need to take them seriously.
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May, A., Kuklina, E., & Yoon, P. (2012). Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008 PEDIATRICS, 129 (6), 1035-1041 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-1082
"American Teens Are At Risk For Cardiovascular Disease" copyright © 2012 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.