Cardiovascular Health Promotion in Children: Challenges and Opportunities for 2020 and Beyond

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This document provides a pediatric-focused companion to “Defining and Setting National Goals for Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Reduction: The American Heart Association’s Strategic Impact Goal Through 2020 and Beyond,” focused on cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction in adults and children. The principles detailed in the document reflect the American Heart Association’s new dynamic and proactive goal to promote cardiovascular health throughout the life course. The primary focus is on adult cardiovascular health and disease prevention, but critical to achievement of this goal is maintenance of ideal cardiovascular health from birth through childhood to young adulthood and beyond. Emphasis is placed on the fundamental principles and metrics that define cardiovascular health in children for the clinical or research setting, and a balanced and critical appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the cardiovascular health construct in children and adolescents is provided. Specifically, this document discusses 2 important factors: the promotion of ideal cardiovascular health in all children and the improvement of cardiovascular health metric scores in children currently classified as having poor or intermediate cardiovascular health. Other topics include the current status of cardiovascular health in US children, opportunities for the refinement of health metrics, improvement of health metric scores, and possibilities for promoting ideal cardiovascular health. Importantly, concerns about the suitability of using single thresholds to identify elevated cardiovascular risk throughout the childhood years and the limits of our current knowledge are noted, and suggestions for future directions and research are provided.

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