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Researchers Gauge Vascular Age Of Obese Children

November 12, 2008

Arteries of obese children appear to resemble those of middle-aged adults, according to U.S. researchers.

Dr. Geetha Raghuveer of the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine and Children’s Mercy Hospital, presented her team’s findings at an American Heart Association seminar in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Their findings show that obesity among children may increase their risk of heart attack or stroke as early as age 30.

“This is an alarming finding,” said Raghuveer.

Using ultrasound to measure the thickness of the inner walls of neck arteries, researchers studied 70 children, 40 of which were obese with an average age of 13.

“We wanted to gauge their vascular age,” said Raghuveer, referring to the age at which the level of arterial thickening would be normal.

They found that the state of their arteries was more typical of a 45 year old.

The children in the study had high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad cholesterol,” low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as the “good cholesterol,” or elevated levels of a type of fat found in the blood called triglycerides.

“It is clear that obesity is a risk factor for the development of premature cardiovascular disease in youth,” said Dr. Catherine McNeal, an associate professor of internal medicine and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a pediatrician at Scott & White Hospital in Temple.

According to one scoring measure, obesity in male adolescents is a greater risk factor for cardiovascular disease than smoking, McNeal noted.

“These data further illustrate the potential detrimental effects of obesity and its related risk factors, particularly components of the metabolic syndrome, on cardiovascular disease in children,” said Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention director of the Stress Testing Laboratory at Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans.

“Certainly, there is considerable concern that there is an obesity epidemic in the U.S., including in our children who are becoming more sedentary, watching more and more TV, playing video games and on the computer as opposed to physical activity outside,” Lavie said.

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