Heart disease in teens.


Roundup: Heart Disease Risks in 12- to 19-Year-Olds are Too Common; Just 4,000 Steps Daily has These Health Benefits; and More News

American Heart Association: Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Common in 12-19-Year-Olds, and They Need More Attention

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease -- led by high cholesterol and being overweight or obese -- are common among pre-teens and teenagers, and they need more attention to reduce the risk of premature heart disease in adulthood, according to a new report from the American Heart Association (AHA) that includes survey results from professionals in pediatric cardiovascular health.

The AHA report finds that 39 percent of U.S. youth ages 12-19 are diagnosed as being overweight or obese, 53 percent have high cholesterol, 18 percent have prediabetes and 15 percent have elevated blood pressure. Children with these conditions have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke by the time they reach their 40s or 50s, according to previous research.

“Cardiovascular disease risk factors starting in childhood have important implications for health, quality of life, health care costs and societal costs across the whole life course,” said Amanda Marma Perak, M.D., chair of the science advisory writing committee and a professor of pediatrics (cardiology) and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, in a statement.

PPC (pediatric preventive cardiology) programs have been independently established across the U. S.  and Canada to target cardiovascular disease risk factors before adulthood. But the AHA finds that many programs report being overwhelmed with referrals and have long wait times for appointments.

The AHA states that professional societies and foundations should "advocate for PPC programs and to support PPC education, training and opportunities for networking and collaboration." The AHA adds that its "Young Hearts Council will be exploring opportunities to respond to and support these needs."

New Study: Just 4,000 Daily Steps can Lower Risk of Early Death – and Extra Benefits with More Steps Taken

The latest study to debunk the long-held notion that you need 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy, avoid chronic disease and live longer is offering a new, easier goal: at least 4,000 steps daily.

Researchers analyzed 17 studies 17 across six countries that targeted the health benefits associated with daily step counts. The least active study participants took about 4,000 steps per day -- and they still saw a reduced risk of death from any cause, including cardiovascular disease. As noted in previous studies, the more steps people took, the lower their risk of dying. The participants of the study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiologycame from Australia, Japan, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

For every 1,000 extra steps taken per day, study participants saw an associated 15 percent reduction in their overall risk of death, according to the research. For those ages 60 and older, walking 6,000 to 10,000 daily steps lowered their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 42 percent. Researchers indicated that those under age 60, who walked between 7,000 and 13,000 steps per day, lowered the overall risk of death by 49 percent.

The new research stems from a collaboration between scientists in Europe and the United States. Several studies have found a strong link between regular exercise and a longer, healthier life. They have also found the opposite — inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle contributes to higher risks of chronic diseases and early death.

The new findings do have some limitations. Researchers didn’t all use the same method for counting steps, which could possibly affect the interpretation of the results. Moreover, they could only show a correlation between walking steps and a reduced mortality risk, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Nonetheless, the study's authors note that it is the "first analysis that not only looked at age and sex but also regional differences based on the weather zones, and for the first time, it assesses the effect of up to 20,000 steps/day on outcomes (confirming the more the better), which was missed in previous analyses."

U.S. guidelines for physical activity recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity, which includes brisk walking.

Several studies have indicated that regular exercise, such as brisk walking, can help replace medications for many patients, especially those on meds to treat hypertension, other heart disease risk factors and other chronic conditions. (Always consult with your physician about exercise programs if you have an underlying or chronic health condition.)

Large Review of Studies Finds Alcohol Consumption Raises Blood Pressure Over Time

A review of seven international research studies, has found a “continuous increase in blood pressure measures in both participants with low and high alcohol intake,” according to a statement on the analysis from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Even low levels of alcohol consumption – as little as one drink a -- were associated with detectable increases in blood pressure levels that may lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack or stroke, according to the new study published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.

None of the participants had high blood pressure when they enrolled in the studies. But their blood pressure measurements at the beginning did have an impact on the alcohol findings. Participants with higher starting blood pressure readings had “a stronger link between alcohol intake and blood pressure changes over time,” states the AHA.

The analysis included data from more than 19,000 adults in the United States, Korea and Japan. After reviewing the data of all participants for more than five years, researchers found the systolic, or top number of a blood pressure reading, increased 1.25 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in people who consumed an average of 12 grams of alcohol per day. The systolic blood pressured surged 4.9 mm Hg in people consuming an average of 48 grams of alcohol per day. 

In the U.S., 14 grams of alcohol represents about a 12-ounce serving of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits, the AHA states.

“We found no beneficial effects in adults who drank a low level of alcohol compared to those who did not drink alcohol,” said senior study author Marco Vinceti, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and public health in the Medical School of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia University in Italy, and an adjunct professor in the department of epidemiology at Boston University’s School of Public Health, in a statement. “We were somewhat surprised to see that consuming an already-low level of alcohol was also linked to higher blood pressure changes over time compared to no consumption – although far less than the blood pressure increase seen in heavy drinkers.”

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