More than 80 percent of U.S. teens follow an unhealthy diet

Unhealthy diets among U.S. teens contribute to high levels of obesity and chronic diseases.

The American Heart Association (AHA) indicates that the current cardiovascular health of today’s youth does not look good for their adult years, unless immediate cultural and social changes occur. AHA defines cardiovascular health by seven health behaviors and factors: No smoking, body mass index (BMI), dietary intake, physical activity, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol.

The AHA examined a sample of 4,673 cases from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), ranging from the years 2005 to 2010, representing 33 million U.S. adolescents’ ages 12- to 19-years-old.

The study looked at each of the seven categories and found that less than one percent had an ideal diet, less than half of adolescents achieved an ideal score in five or more of the seven cardiovascular health components measured in the study, including physical activity. None had ideal levels in all seven categories. The study’s point out that the good news is that these cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable through healthy lifestyle changes.

It is important to instill healthy habits in children at a very young age according to AHA. These habits can be simple, such as ensuring that children have adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diets, making time for family meals and ensuring that children play and are physically active every day. For more information on how to help children develop healthy habits, read about how to help children develop healthy habits from the AHA.

Michigan State University Extension offers classes that focus on health and nutrition to help youth and adults lead a healthy lifestyle and reduce the rates of obesity and other chronic diseases. To find a class in your area or to find an expert, visit or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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