is the leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. Although heart attacks and stroke usually do not occur until adulthood, cardiovascular risk factors are often present in childhood. A study in the June 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online May 21) examines how common these risk factors are in adolescents
compared to a decade ago.
The study, “Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among U.S. Adolescents, 1999-2008
,” examined data from nearly 3,400 adolescents aged 12 to 19 from the NHANES survey.
In the study, 50 percent of the overweight teens and 60 percent of the obese teens had one or more cardiovascular risk factors in addition to their weight status, and 37 percent of normal-weight adolescents had at least one risk factor during the 1999-2008 period of study. The prevalence of prehypertension/hypertension
and borderline-high or high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
did not change between 1999 and 2008. However, the prevalence of prediabetes/diabetes
increased significantly, from 9 percent to 23 percent. The prevalence of obesity
did not increase during the study period, and study authors suggest this may explain why other cardiovascular risk factors like borderline-high and high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and prehypertension/hypertension also plateaued. The most common combination of CVD risk factors among overweight and obese children was prehypertension/hypertension and borderline-high or high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (26 percent).
Study authors conclude the results indicate that U.S. adolescents carry a substantial burden of cardiovascular risk factors, especially teens who are overweight or obese, and that adolescence represents a window of opportunity to assess these risk factors and promote healthy lifestyles.