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Oh dear! A few years ago there were headlines declaring that the current generation would not live as long as their parents because of premature heart disease. I have to admit that at that the time I thought that there was an element of truth in the statement, but kept my head down when there was a "backlash" suggesting that this was too "emotional" a statement and would be counter-productive.
But it seems that Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., chair and associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has decided to stick his head above the parapet and declare that as far as the current generation of US teenagers is concerned, "The future is bleak"! When it came to the established risk factors for heart disease, none of the 5,547 children profiled in the study fitted the criteria for ideal cardiovascular health: now that seems scarey! But before we think that our teenagers are letting the side down, I vividly remember attending a conference 10 years ago where the lecturer went through the list of cardiovascular risks and asked attendees to keep their hands up if they fitted into each criteria. With each new criteria, more hands went down: and by the end, ther were only one or two hands left up! And these were all Doctors!
But back to the teenagers: their biggest downfall was diet, which appears to be terrible with high sodium and saturated fats. Then approximately a third of them had higher than normal cholesterol, blood sugars and were overweight or frankly obese! Amazingly, considering all the health information regarding tobacco, 25% of them reported that they had smoked in the past month.
The conclusion is not that these teenagers are a lost cause, but rather that we must look at new ways of getting health information through to them so that they can maximize their health and their lives. This is a complex challenge and one that perhaps should start with the idea that the easy option is not always the smartest or best option.