The UCLA Teen Heart Health Group Founding Members
Teen Heart Health Co-founder, Luca Pistor, is a Freshman at Stanford University in California. He is currently pursuing a concurrent B.A. in Linguistics and B.S. in Computer Science. He previously attended high school at BBIS, an international boarding school in Berlin. As his family has had a history of heart disease, Luca became interested in preventive measures that can be taken against heart disease, and he contacted preventive cardiologist Karol Watson, MD, PhD. Their emails led to a roundtable discussion with her team in 2014, and the "Teen Heart Health Initiative" was born.
Luca states; "If heart disease is the number one reason people die, and so much of it is as a result of lifestyle choices begun in childhood, we have to get the message to K-12 schools to have the biggest impact". Luca and the other teen co-founders Kaycee Branche and Hannah Fogelman worked throughout their High School time, expanding their teen reach, and holding heart health workshops in K-8 schools around Los Angeles. As Luca expanded his social entrepreneurship program internationally, he brought heart health education to teens in schools around the world with his social impact program JSESInternational.com. Luca is committed to increasing heart-healthy habits to teens and young adults worldwide!
The UCLA Teen Heart Health / Heart Institute of the Caribbean Group Founding Member
Teen Heart Health President Corrie Branche, is a Junior in high school and currently attends Windward School. One of her goals is to enter the field of medicine and educate the public on easy ways to stay healthy. Corrie has been a part of the Teen Heart Health program since 2017 and took over as president of the program in 2019. In January of 2019, Corrie began working with Dr. Ernest Madu on developing a teen heart health program in Jamaica and has since been working hard to get the program
off the ground! In early January the THH Group gathered together to assemble gift bags including Heart Healthy Tips, and valuable information, as well as a few treats including beach balls, water bottles, journal, and a personal note!The gift bags were boxed and sent to the Jamaican Heart Institute to be distributed to youths there. This was the groups first International venture and they are looking forward to building this connection and more.
India Bland is currently a first year student at Washington University in St. Louis. "I am interested in teen heart health because I think it is important to address early prevention methods for the leading cause of death in the U.S. especially because it disproportionately affects African Americans."
Garett Collins "I will begin my Freshman year at Loyola Marymount University this Fall and just completed my Senior year at Calabasas High School. I joined the Teen Heart Health Program in my sophomore year of high school, believing it to be an extraordinary opportunity to inspire improved cardiovascular health awareness in my community and abroad. As a senior, looking back, I am excited with the progress we've made, and look forward to growing this valuable resource into a national program with global outreach as well."
Kyle Golden "I am a second year undergraduate at UCLA. I joined Teen Heart Health because I want to be part of an amazing community of individuals who spread heart health awareness to students in order to prevent diseases later in life. I am excited to start working with Teen Heart Health to make a positive impact on young people in many different areas!
Mackenzie Marrujo, will begin her Senior year at Windward School this coming Fall. She comments; "I joined the Teen Heart Health program, because our hearts are an essential part of our bodies, for they not only pump blood through our arteries, but they also power the emotions that we experience. It’s important that we keep such a vital organ healthy and thriving, so that we may experience life to our fullest potential."
Tejas Shivkumar "I am a member of the Class of 2021 at Brentwood School. I became interested in heart health as my father is a cardiologist, and seeing how it disproportionately affected teenagers and young adults, I wanted to work with a program which would help educate teens on how to be heart healthy and spread awareness about teen heart health. UCLA's Teen Heart Health program is amazing because it allows us to educate many other teenagers through personal interactions, and the lack of age difference makes it easy for us to connect with them.
Zane St. John will be a Junior this coming fall at Windward School. “I am interested in the cardiovascular health of teenagers because I recognize the importance of maintaining heart health from youth into old age. Having had relatives with cardiovascular health issues, I realize how important it is to keep one’s heart in good shape.”
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and globally, and despite improvements in cardiovascular mortality in the past 50 years, death rates from heart disease remain unacceptable high. In addition, recent negative trends in the heath of adolescents make it likely that cardiovascular disease epidemic will only worsen in the coming years. Several recent studies have shown that US teens are not very healthy these days. Using data from the US centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), researchers recently evaluated the frequency of “ideal heart health” (normal blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and BMI as well as a healthy diet, regular physical activity and not smoking) in teens and found he numbers troubling. Specifically they found that:
- More than 80 percent of teen boys and girls had poor diets. (Less than 1% had ideal diets)
- More than 30% of the boys and 40% of the girls had high blood sugar levels
- 56% of girls and 33% of boys did not get enough physical activity
- 1/3 of both boys and girls we overweight and obese
- 2/3 of both boys and girls had high cholesterol levels
- Fortunately, most of the teens had never smoked a cigarette but unfortunately almost 25% of teens had smoked within the past month
- And fortunately, most boys and girls (92.9% and 93.4%, respectively) had ideal blood pressure
So, despite some glimmers of good news on this report, the overall findings and the presence of these poor health metrics in teens does not bode well for the future of this generation.
Recent research has also found that teens are under increasing amounts of stress. Many teens report being under more stress than they believe is healthy (figure 1), and only half of teens (50%) report feeling confident about their ability to handle their personal problems. While both teens and adults perceive stress, teens have underdeveloped stress management skills and thus may be more adversely affected by stress. Stress is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
We find the prevalence of poor diet, lack of physical activity and increased stress among teens to be particularly alarming. This is why we envisioned the UCLA Teen Heart Health Initiative. Three motivated teens were the inaugural members of the UCLA Teen Heart Health Initiative in 2014. In the past 2 years, these teens have had brainstorming sessions, completed school visits to share heart healthy messages to other teens and children, and have created a motto and web content to inspire and share as well:
“Move your feet….Watch what you eat….stay upbeat!”
Join us in this movement towards overall healthy lifestyles and cardiovascular health. Insure your future is the best it can be. Learn more:
What is the PROBLEM?
- Teens have easy access to unhealthy fast food and select these options
- Teens who experience too much stress with school or extracurricular activities, find themselves without enough time for proper daily exercise
- Teens don’t realize that poor health decisions at this stage in their life impact their future heart health
What is the SOLUTION?
- Pay attention to what you eat; heart healthy foods like grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables can be substituted for unhealthy meals and snacks
- Form good habits by creating a lifelong active lifestyle - find time with friends for exercise you enjoy – take a bike ride, go for a hike, join a gym or dance class!
- Select nutritional and tasty choices from your school lunch program, encourage your administration to partner with companies that offer fresh selections
What IMPACT does ‘Teen Heart Health Initiative’ have?
• Provides an EDUCATION about healthy choices that may immediately affect teens eating and exercising habits and increase their chances for a healthy cardiovascular system