Heart health in jeopardy: Study links childhood inactivity and screen time to young adult heart damage

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childhood-inactivity(NaturalHealth365)  Have you ever wondered how many hours the average American spends glued to screens each day?  Is it around 6 hours, or perhaps a more moderate 4 hours?  Maybe you’d lean towards an estimate of 3 hours as a reasonable guess.

Prepare to be taken aback because the truth is far more staggering: the average American devotes an astonishing 7 hours and 4 minutes to screen time daily.  And what’s more, this trend isn’t confined to the borders of the U.S. alone; it has spread globally, contributing to an international daily average of just under 7 hours of screen engagement.

Phones stand out as particularly problematic of all the devices vying for our attention.  On average, Americans spend a significant 3 hours and 43 minutes on their phone every single day.  While health experts advocate for limiting screen exposure to fewer than two hours per day, a recent report uncovers an unsettling trend: excessive screen time is taking a toll on our youth, potentially leading to heart damage among young adults.

Are screens becoming our children’s reality?

The question posed above is fair to ask simply because kids spend an increasing number of waking hours staring at screens.  From video games to smartphones, Kindle books, computers, and beyond, screens are ubiquitous.

Sadly, plenty of youngsters are shunning in-person interactions with peers and even parents in favor of online discussions and screen-based entertainment.  There is an argument to be made that our kids are viewing screen time as reality while ignoring their fellow human beings in favor of addictive, pixilated entertainment.

Why it makes sense to monitor your youngster’s screen time

Allowing a child, tween, or teen to indulge in hours of uninterrupted TV watching comes with its share of problems, which are more concerning than you might think.  Beyond the immediate effects, excessive screen time during these formative years could potentially lead to heart damage in young adulthood.  While the impact of such sedentary behavior might not be immediately apparent, the health risks that follow can be life-threatening.

The findings from the abovementioned report encapsulate a recent study that paints a clear picture: prolonged periods of sedentary behavior from childhood through the early adult years can result in heart damage, elevated blood pressure, and weight gain.  The researchers’ investigation revealed a striking pattern: for every additional minute of inactivity experienced between the ages of 11 and 24, the mass of the left ventricle of the heart increased by 0.004g/m – a metric that measures grams relative to height.  This increase became evident during the period when the individuals reached the ages of 17 to 24.

Over the transition from childhood to young adulthood, instances of inactivity surged by a staggering 2.8 hours each day, translating to nearly 170 minutes.  If this level of sedentary behavior persists, the left ventricle’s mass could be augmented by 0.7g/m daily.  This statistic holds significance, as earlier studies have shown that such an increase in left ventricle mass over a span of seven years amplifies the likelihood of heart damage, stroke, and premature death by a staggering 100%.

Periods of inactivity increase across youth age cohorts

The study mentioned earlier underscored an alarming trend: 11-year-old children were observed to be sedentary for an average of 362 minutes each day.  Shockingly, this number ballooned to an astounding 474 minutes by the time these kids reached the age of 15.  This trend didn’t stop there – it surged to a staggering 531 minutes when these individuals hit the age of 24.

The accumulation of additional hours spent in a motionless state in front of screens ultimately contributes to a heavier heart, elevating the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and premature death.  What’s particularly noteworthy is that the study’s findings highlight how sedentary behavior affects the hearts of young adults, irrespective of their blood pressure and body weight.  This emphasizes the far-reaching impact of prolonged inactivity on heart health during these pivotal years.

Tips to reduce your child’s screen time for improved heart health

The influence you wield in safeguarding your child’s heart health – extending from their early years through their golden ones – is immeasurable.  The journey towards a robust heart starts with a balanced (organic) diet, and the role of physical activity cannot be overstated.  As a parent, you can actively steer your children towards sports, artistic pursuits, crafts, and other hobbies that encourage physical movement and facilitate social interaction with peers.  These alternatives can help counterbalance the allure of prolonged screen engagement.

Leading by example is a powerful approach.  By reducing your screen time, you set a precedent your kids will likely emulate.  If necessary, establish limits on your child’s daily screen usage.  Remember that screen time encompasses a range of activities, from video gaming and e-book reading to smartphone usage.

By taking these steps, you’re nurturing healthier screen habits and fostering a heart-conscious lifestyle that will serve your child well throughout their life.

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