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Young people, lifestyle choices and health: a “dangerous disconnect”

In a survey of Americans age 18 to 44, most said they wanted to live until age 98. But as many as a third don’t believe that doing healthy things now will make any difference.

Lifestyle choices this population ignores includes exercising and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Lead author of the study, Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, called this a “dangerous disconnect.”

There are, however, opportunities to improve this attitude.

A different report, presented at the May 13, 2011, meeting of the American Heart Association, showed that intervention at an earlier age can have a positive impact on young people’s lifestyle choices, and impact that will stay with them as they grow older.

The report discussed findings from a program that educated middle school students about heart healthy lifestyles. Follow up showed significant improvements in their cholesterol levels and resting heart rates as much as four years after the program.

The program goals were to encourage students to:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, and less fatty food;
  • Make better beverage choices;
  • Get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week; and
  • Spend less time in front of the TV and computer.

Students had better cholesterol, LDL and resting heart rate four years after the program. Additional research is being planned.

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