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16:23 PM

American Heart Association: Decline in ideal heart health begins early for teen girls

Heart health deteriorates as early as adolescence, with black girls experiencing greater rates of decline than white girls, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 — November 16-18 in Philadelphia. 

“Cardiovascular health declines in adolescent girls, and some teens experience a greater loss of cardiovascular health than others. About 20% of the girls in this study entered young adulthood with low cardiovascular health (defined as less than half of the total possible ideal cardiovascular health score of seven key health factors,” said lead study author Holly Gooding, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Risk factors that contribute to heart disease can start as early as childhood and adolescence. These risk factors include obesity, tobacco and alcohol use and lack of regular exercise, setting up youth for heart health problems later in life.

Obesity and physical inactivity are two of the biggest hurdles facing youth today, with nearly 24 million children ages 2 to 19 overweight or obese, and 15% of adolescents not getting enough exercise, a problem that is more common among girls than boys (19% versus 11%), according to 2015 data, the most recent year available.

Identifying which teen girls may be at greater risk for heart disease as they progress into adulthood may help improve heart health outcomes for everyone, researchers said.

An American Heart Association volunteer expert noted that the findings are compelling yet not surprising. “Almost one in five in the teenage population have less-than-ideal cardiovascular health — so this is [at] epidemic proportions,” said Geetha Raghuveer, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and professor of pediatrics University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine in Kansas City, Missouri and chair of the Atherosclerosis, Hypertension and Obesity in the Young Subcommittee of the American Heart Association’s Cardiovascular Disease in the Young Council.

“I firmly believe that a lot of the cardiovascular disease risk factors stem from social and economic determinants of health and disease, [and] social, racial and economic disparities,” Raghuveer said. The impact of these risks “begins very early in life, as early as in childhood. It's never too early to start talking about health promotion to preserve heart health. I think it should ideally start in preschool.”


Read the full story via American Heart Association

Learn more about the Heart Center at Children's Mercy