Sedentary lifestyle in childhood may damage heart

Too much sitting in childhood may lead to cardiac problems, independently of high body mass index or raised blood pressure, a conference will hear today.

The work was carried out by Dr Andrew Agbaje of the University of Eastern Finland and was based on information gathered on 766 children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, also known as ‘Children of the 90s’.

When the children were aged 11, and again at 15 and 24, they were given an activity tracker smartwatch that monitored their movements for seven days. An estimate of the weight of the left ventricle of their heart was made using an echocardiography scan at ages 17 and 24.

The team took into account factors that could influence the relationship between sedentary time and an enlarged left ventricle including age, sex, blood pressure, body fat, smoking and socioeconomic status.

Levels of physical activity were also taken into account, to specifically focus on the impact of sedentary time.

Average sedentary time increased from age 11 to 24, rising from 362 minutes per day to 531 minutes.

Analysis suggested that every one-minute increase in sedentary time between these ages was linked to a 0.004 g/m2.7 increase in the mass of the left ventricle between 17 to 24 years of age.

Previous work has indicated that an increase in left ventricular mass may be linked to a doubling in the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death.

The research will be presented at ESC Congress 2023, held in Amsterdam from 25 to 28 August.

Dr Agbaje said: “All those hours of screen time in young people add up to a heavier heart. Children and teenagers need to move more to protect their long-term health.”

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