Adults aren't the only ones who face the threat of cardiovascular disease. Northern Colorado children as young as fourth grade are exhibiting multiple risk factors now.
These risk factors include high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and obesity, according to a recently released report compiled by Medical Center of the Rockies Healthy Hearts program and Colorado State University.
Because the report also shows that many of the children who face risk factors of cardiovascular disease come from homes where adults also are at risk, heart health experts say it will take full-family interventions to turn the statistics around.
"Given that parents and their children are displaying risk factors, the treatment needs to be family-focused," said Laura Dvorak, Medical Center of the Rockies Healthy Hearts coordinator.
The report, which was featured at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism Scientific Sessions on Mar. 16, was based on 20 years of data collected through the Healthy Hearts' screening program, which identifies risk factors among children in six northern Colorado school districts.
Through the program, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), blood pressure and body mass index of 9,363 children have been tracked since 1993.
Because of the findings of the program and the report, a new effort is now underway to design an intervention program to help not just the children, but whole families that are at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Healthy Hearts and CSU's Department of Health and Exercise Science have received a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture - CSU Experiment Station to design an intervention program for families at risk for cardiovascular disease. Focus groups have been held in Loveland and Fort Collins, but more are planned.
Be a role model to your kids
"In the meantime, parents need to take a look at their lifestyles and see what they can do to be good role models to create healthier environments for their whole family," Dvorak said. "Limit fast food. Take family walks. Turn off the television every other night. Just one step in the right direction can make a difference."
By the numbers
• 21.1% of the students screened had a BMI over the 85 percentile for age and sex
• 16.4% of children with zero risk factors reported a family member who smokes, compared to 24% of children with five risk factors. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes trended similar.
• 39% of the students screened had a total cholesterol > 170 mg/dl
• 10.7% of the students screened had HDL-C < 35 mg/dl
• 11.7% of the students screed had a Cholesterol/HDL ratio >4.8
• 68.2% of students with risk factors reported living with an overweight adult
Practical ways families can live healthier lives in northern Colorado
Healthy Kids Club
Can Do - Coalition for Activity and Nutrition to Defeat Obesity