Many teenagers already have at least one major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, with one in five 14 and 15 year-olds already experiencing high blood pressure, latest study results suggest.
Canadian researchers, who studied the cardiac health of more than 20,000 teenagers aged 14 and 15, found “alarmingly high” rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
At the start of the study in 2002, the researchers found that 17 per cent of 14 and 15 year olds had one or more cardiovascular risk factors. Nineteen per cent had high blood pressure, 11 per cent were obese and nine per cent had high cholesterol.
Six years later, the number of study participants with at least one cardiovascular risk factor had 21 per cent. Those with elevated cholesterol had increased to 16 per cent and 13 per cent were classed as obese.
Lead study author Brain McCrindle, a cardiologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said: “One of the things we already know is that the number of risk factors you have really accelerates the whole process. And when you have a healthy looking kid in front of you, it’s easy to miss the invisible time bomb waiting to go off.”
Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Beth Abramson described the results as “shocking”.
“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 said.
“These risk factor levels will continue to increase and track into adulthood unless we do something now. We’re ringing the alarm bell, every child has the right to grow up healthy,” she added.
The study results were presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Edmonton this week.
The study found that between 2002 and 2008, the number of 14 and 15 year olds with one or more cardiovascular risk factor rose from 17 per cent to 21 per cent.