It breaks my heart

We’ve known for many years that heart disease can start in adolescence, and even sooner.  But according to newly-released statistics, the numbers have become truly staggering. The risk factors for cardiovascular disease in adolescents have sky-rocketed. And it’s all thanks to our incredible obesity epidemic.

The new, gruesome statistics were released from the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They analyzed data on 3,383 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19. These adolescents were among those who participated in a survey of the U.S. population done between 1999 and 2008.

And here’s just the start of what they found:

  • 37 percent of normal-weight adolescents had at least 1 risk factor for heart disease
  • 49 percent of overweight adolescents had at least 1 risk factor for heart disease
  • 61 percent of obese adolescents had at least 1 risk factor for heart disease

It’s a sad state of affairs. Yet, as I write this, the American Beverage Association is considering suing the City of New York for its ban on selling soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.

Who needs to drink 16 ounces of soda? In fact, who needs to be drinking any soda? It’s a prime contender for “worst food of all time!” Not only is it void of any nutritional value, but it directly leads to obesity and heart disease. There is a known correlation.

There’s also a known correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer…and guess what? We have regulations on it. So what’s so wrong with doing something about a substance that’s even more deadly?

Getting back to this study…following is a breakdown of the risk factors that showed up in these adolescents:

  • 22 percent had borderline-high or high LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
  • 6 percent had low HDL cholesterol (the good kind)

But even more importantly:

  • 14 percent had prehypertension or hypertension, and
  • 15 percent had prediabetes or diabetes

The prevalence of prediabetes and diabetes increased from 9 to 21 percent between 1999 and 2008!

This is in our children. We are responsible for their safety–which includes their health.  But we are setting our children up to fail from the outset in terms of health. As I told one mother a few years ago when I appeared on the Maury Povich show, “You are killing your kid.” She looked at me like I had three heads but she was the one chewing up McDonalds and then taking it out of her mouth and feeding it to her 11 month old–who by the way weighed 64 pounds. And I was the crazy one.

Anyway, according to this new report…the risk factors increased by how much the child weighed:

  • Overweight and obese adolescents were more likely to have 2 risk factors than normal-weight youths
  • Obese adolescents were more likely to have 3 or more risk factors than their normal-weight peers.

Heart disease risk factors are often present during childhood and adolescence, but the “overt manifestations,” of these risk factors, such as heart attack and stroke, don’t usually emerge until adulthood. And that’s why we should have early interventions. But I’m not talking about statins or beta-blockers or diabetes drugs. How about just feeding our children in a healthy fashion and modifying their lifestyles? There’s a shocking idea.

We have got to take this seriously–we are ruining the lives of our children before their lives have even begun. Set a good example. And start teaching the right messages now…that the “good stuff” like cupcakes, cookies, soda, and ice cream is not good, but deadly.