BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA
CHICAGO • Our children's hearts are in danger.
High rates of obesity are translating into rapidly growing numbers of children suffering from diseases that used to be seen only in middle age and beyond. According to a recent scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), a large proportion of U.S. children fail to meet the standards set for ideal cardiovascular health.
"A primary reason for so few children having ideal cardiovascular health is poor nutrition — children are eating high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and not eating enough healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, fish and other foods strongly associated with good heart health and a healthy body weight," said Julia Steinberger, the lead author of the new statement and director of pediatric cardiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
es, there have been some notable improvements in nationwide measures of childhood obesity — the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) reports that the national childhood obesity rate has leveled off and is actually declining in some school districts. But we still have a way to go.
Since 2003-2004, the obesity rate among U.S. youth ages 2 to 19 has held steady at 17 percent, according to the RWJF, with racial and ethnic minority groups — as well as low-income children — seeing fewer improvements.
The numbers reflect the divide between those on opposite ends of the wealth spectrum. More affluent Americans typically value and can afford fresh, locally sourced meals and prefer water as their main drink. Compare this to low-income communities in which fast-food dollar menus and sugary drinks are the norm. Among white youth, the national obesity rate was 14.7 percent between 2011 and 2014, compared to 19.5 percent among black youth, 21.9 percent among Hispanic youth and 20.2 percent among Asian-American youth during the same time period.