Rise in teen heart attacks
Heart disease risk factors grow in Canada's teens.
An alarming number of Canadian teenagers have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other major risk factors for heart disease and stroke, a researcher warned Tuesday at a conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

"This study is further evidence of an accelerating decline in the heart health of Canada's teens," Dr. Brian McCrindle, a cardiologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2009, co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

"The disturbing thing is the trends we found show that the situation is getting worse in some areas and at best is unchanged in others," McCrindle added in a telephone interview with Reuters Health.

The findings stem from a 7-year ongoing study of the heart health of more than 20,000 Canadian 14- and 15-year-old 9th grade students.

The data suggest that between 2002 and 2008, the percentage of kids with 1 or more risk factors for heart disease rose from 17% to 21%; the number with high cholesterol rose from 9% to 16%; and the number of obese teens rose from 11% to 13%.

The number of teens with high blood pressure fell slightly from 19% to 17% and the number overweight fell from 17% to 16%.

Still, "almost a third of these teenagers are either overweight or obese," McCrindle said, "and this is due to a lot of adverse, health behaviors: poor nutrition, consuming a lot of sugary drinks, skipping breakfast, lack of physical activity and increased time spent in sedentary pursuits."

"Over 50% of Canadian children between the ages of 5 and 17 aren't active enough to support optimal health and development," Dr. Beth Abramson, spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, noted in a prepared statement.

"What does this say for the future health of these young teens? They are at risk of developing long-term health effects such as premature heart disease and type 2 diabetes," she warned.

Studies have shown that overweight or obese kids with heart disease risk factors often grow up to be overweight or obese with heart disease risk factors.

"While public awareness has increased around this issue, it hasn't yet translated into any kind of policy action and it certainly hasn't translated into behavior changes to correct some of these factors," McCrindle told Reuters Health.

Comprehensive and integrated guidelines, he added in a statement, are needed "for keeping our children healthy and we need them soon because this type of study is showing the worst is yet to come."

"This is the first generation of children that may have a shorter lifespan than their parents," McCrindle warned.

Did you think it was possible for teens to suffer from heart disease?

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