• blood pressure;
  • cardiovascular risk factors;
  • children;
  • lifestyle;
  • nutrition;
  • physical activity.


1. Studies in children relating blood lipids to the extent of atherosclerosis at post-mortem suggest a link between risk factors for cardiovascular disease in childhood and adult life. Tracking of blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol from childhood also supports this association. However, prospective studies have not yet established the outcome in children with increased levels of risk factors.

2. In a controlled trial in Perth, Western Australia, involving over 1000 10–12 year old children, fitness was improved by physical activity programmes which were associated with a greater fall in diastolic BP and triceps skinfolds in girls compared with controls. Sugar intake decreased in boys and fat intake fell in girls, mainly affecting participants in home nutrition programmes.

3. In higher risk children, identified by cluster analysis, major benefits were associated with the fitness and home nutrition programmes. Physical activity combined with involvement of the family in nutrition education is likely to be the most successful approach to modifying lifestyle in children, including those with higher levels of risk.

4. Undernutrition by too rigid restriction of fat intake must be avoided in young children who need calorie-dense foods. Undernutrition, in itself, may predispose to cardiovascular disease in later life. Programmes should aim to establish a prudent diet appropriate to the age of the child combined with physical activity. As regular activity and a healthy diet in adult life will reduce risks of cardiovascular disease it is likely that childhood education will establish lifestyle habits of potential long-term benefit.