12:17pm Wednesday 16 October 2019

Unhealthy habits in teens from lower socioeconomic households raises risk of heart disease

The study, which will be presented Sunday at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver, is the result of a collaboration with Heart Niagara Inc.’s Healthy Heart Schools’ Program, which provides cardiovascular screening to all Grade 9 students in the Niagara region. The screening involves recording each student’s height, weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“People with higher socioeconomic status tend to have more resources, knowledge and time to devote to a healthy lifestyle. Those with lower socioeconomic status are often focused on more immediate concerns, like stretching their paycheque to cover food and rent,” says Dr. Brian McCrindle, principal investigator of the study, Staff Cardiologist and Senior Scientist at SickKids. “By taking socioeconomic status into consideration, health-care providers can target youth and families at risk of heart disease and design adaptive interventions to address the behavioural factors in this population.”

The research involved Heart Niagara’s collection of cross-sectional data for cardiovascular risk factors and health behaviours in more than 4,000 students aged 14 to 15 during the 2009-2010 school year.

Researchers examined the data collected from the universal screening program and matched participants’ postal codes with socioeconomic status measures from the 2006 Census Canada data. These include household income, home ownership and highest educational degree in the home. They then looked at health behaviours such as physical activity, screen time, smoking, snacking habits and fruit/vegetable consumption. They also examined factors that may contribute to cardiovascular risk, like BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure.

The researchers found higher BMI and cholesterol were linked with lower income and education. Elevated blood pressure was significantly associated with lower income. Sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition and smoking were strongly related to lower socioeconomic status.

“The Healthy Heart Schools’ Program works across socioeconomic barriers to identify premature future risk and is reaching adolescents who may not be getting wellness checks,” says Karen Stearne of Heart Niagara Inc., a not-for-profit charitable organization that supports educators and helps both children and adults take responsibility for their heart health by providing assessment, referrals, training and tools.

“As health-care providers, we need to teach youth that you don’t need a gym membership to be active. There are low-cost strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says McCrindle, who is also Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto and CIBC World Markets Children’s Miracle Foundation Chair in Child Health Research at SickKids and the University of Toronto.

McCrindle and colleagues offer tips and tools for creating healthy weight programs for children and teens at www.healthy.obesityinyouth.org.

Dr. Sarah Lord, lead author of the study and a resident at the University of Toronto, will present the study on Sunday.

The study was funded by Heart Niagara Inc., the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and SickKids Foundation.

About The Hospital for Sick Children
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision for Healthier Children. A Better World. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

About SickKids Research & Learning Tower
SickKids Research & Learning Tower will bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines and a variety of clinical perspectives, to accelerate discoveries, new knowledge and their application to child health — a different concept from traditional research building designs.  The Tower will physically connect SickKids science, discovery and learning activities to its clinical operations.  Designed by award-winning architects Diamond + Schmitt Inc. and HDR Inc. with a goal to achieve LEED® Gold Certification for sustainable design, the Tower will create an architectural landmark as the eastern gateway to Toronto’s Discovery District.  SickKids Research & Learning Tower is funded by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and community support for the ongoing fundraising campaign. For more information, please visit www.buildsickkids.com.

For more information, please contact:

Suzanne Gold
Senior Communications Specialist – Media Relations
Communications and Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 2059
Fax: 416-813-5328
email: suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca

Matet Nebres
Manager, Media Relations
Communications and Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
Fax: 416-813-5328
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca

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