We are interested in reaching out to populations that are often overlooked when it comes to Heart messages. One such group is teenagers. As women (and mothers) we understand that healthy eating habits begin at home and the healthful habits laid down early can translate into lifelong health. We have recently launched a “Teen Heart Health” program and are currently working to devise a “teen friendly” heart health message.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and globally, and despite improvements in cardiovascular mortality in the past 50 years, death rates from heart disease remain unacceptable high. In addition, recent negative trends in the heath of adolescents make it likely that cardiovascular disease epidemic will only worsen in the coming years. Several recent studies have shown that US teens are not very healthy these days. Using data from the US centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), researchers recently evaluated the frequency of “ideal heart health” (normal blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and BMI as well as a healthy diet, regular physical activity and not smoking) in teens and found he numbers troubling. Specifically they found that:
So, despite some glimmers of good news on this report, the overall findings and the presence of these poor health metrics in teens does not bode well for the future of this generation.
Recent research has also found that teens are under increasing amounts of stress 5. Many teens report being under more stress than they believe is healthy (figure 1), and only half of teens (50%) report feeling confident about their ability to handle their personal problems. While both teens and adults perceive stress, teens have underdeveloped stress management skills and thus may be more adversely affected by stress. Stress is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
We find the prevalence of poor diet, lack of physical activity and increased stress among teens to be particularly alarming. This is why we envisioned the UCLA Teen Heart Health Initiative. Three motivated teens were the inaugural members of the UCLA Teen Heart Health Initiative in 2014. In the past 2 years, these teens have had brainstorming sessions, completed school visits to share heart healthy messages to other teens and children, and have created a motto and web content to inspire and share as well:
“Move your feet….Watch what you eat….stay upbeat!”
Join us in this movement towards overall healthy lifestyles and cardiovascular health. Insure your future is the best it can be. Learn more >>
What is the PROBLEM?
• Teens have easy access to unhealthy fast food and select these options
• Teens who experience too much stress with school or extracurricular activities, find themselves without enough time for proper daily exercise
• Teens don’t realize that poor health decisions at this stage in their life impact their future heart health
What is the SOLUTION?
• Pay attention to what you eat; heart healthy foods like grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables can be substituted for unhealthy meals and snacks
• Form good habits by creating a lifelong active lifestyle - find time with friends for exercise you enjoy – take a bike ride, go for a hike, join a gym or dance class!
• Select nutritional and tasty choices from your school lunch program, encourage your administration to partner with companies that offer fresh selections
What IMPACT does ‘Teen Heart Health Initiative’ have?
• Provides an EDUCATION about healthy choices that may immediately affect teens eating and exercising habits and increase their chances for a healthy cardiovascular system