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Teens Today At Higher Risk For Heart Disease

By Kaylin Krashesky

MEDFORD, Ore. — A new study done by the national healthy and nutrition examination survey shows that 34% of teens are overweight or obese because of that, teens today are at a higher risk for heart disease. People who are overweight are at a higher risk for heart disease, this includes teens.

We’ve seen over 40% of children who are overweight or obese,” says Cardiologist Dr. Todd Kotler. “Obesity is not only a risk factor in itself for heart diseases, but it increases the likelihood of developing the risk factors for heart disease, so it’s kind of a double whammy.”

Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and lack of exercise.

“If you accumulate these risk factors as a child then the chances are increased that you’re going to develop coronary disease later in life,” Dr. Kotler says.

Something those working with kids are seeing in the Rogue Valley.
“In one study we had 13% of kids had the metabolic syndrome which is a clustering of risk factors for heart disease three or more factors for heart disease, and that was for elementary school children,” states Jenny Slawta, an Associate Professor at SOU. Slawta works with kids in school and says physical education needs to be put back in all schools.

“We were just at one school and we ran the data and less than one percent of the kids at one particular school were able to meet the presidential fitness test standards,” Slawta says. “About 11% met the national standards; that kind of gives you the idea that we need to get PE back in the schools.”

Lack of exercise not only increases risk for heart disease, but Type-II Diabetes. Debbe Zietlow, a certified diabetes educator in the Rogue Valley, says she’s seen kids as young as 13 come in with Type-II Diabetes.

“The whole world is looking for a fix, a magic pill, and the truth is the plain good things work just getting moving, regular activity and exercise and good diet choices,” Zietlow says.

Diet also helps the heart. Dr. Kotler says we can start developing the early stages of plaque build up in our teens. Which is why diet and exercise are so important to kids, not only now, but in the future as well.