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Childhood obesity could be a predictor of future heart disease

High blood pressure at an early age can also lead to problems later in life

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Photo (c) Mongkolchon Akesin - Getty Images
While many studies have discussed the risks linked with childhood obesity, a new study conducted by researchers from the European Society of Cardiology found that the condition can affect kids into adulthood. 

The study revealed that children who struggle with obesity and high blood pressure could be at an increased risk for heart disease as adults. 

“The study provides evidence from a large general population sample for a connection between cardiovascular risk factors in children and adolescents -- namely high blood pressure and obesity -- and subsequent deleterious changes in the blood vessels,” said researcher Julia Bueschges. 

Reducing the health risks

To better understand how obesity and blood pressure can affect children’s heart health, the researchers evaluated data from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents. 

The study took place over the course of 11 years. At the onset, nearly 5,000 children between the ages of three and 17 had their basic vitals assessed, including height, weight, and blood pressure. Over a decade later, those same children were monitored again, and they also underwent ultrasounds to evaluate their arteries. 

The goal was to determine how their health as children affected their health as adolescents and young adults. The researchers explained that the thickness of arteries can determine heart health, as clogged arteries can lead to any number of serious heart conditions. 

In cases where blood pressure and obesity didn’t improve between evaluations, the risk for problematic heart health increased. Obesity was associated with a 53 percent higher risk of thicker arteries, while high blood pressure increased the risk by nearly 65 percent. 

While improvements in health between the two check-ups reduced the risk, childhood obesity and high blood pressure were still associated with a greater chance of thicker arteries. 

The researchers hope that these findings can inspire consumers to start adopting healthy habits, like healthy diets and exercise, in the hopes that they can last through adulthood. 

“These findings underline the importance of good cardiovascular health from an early age,” said Bueschges. “Physical activity and a healthy diet can help prevent high blood pressure and obesity. Alcohol and tobacco should be avoided. Last but not least, it is important to manage stress.”

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