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Teen Health

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Overweight, Obese Teens Show Early Heart Risks

Many Obese, Overweight Teens Have Heart Disease Risk Factors, Damaged Hearts

Teens and Heart Disease Risk: New Findings continued...

Neither did the number who had high LDL or ''bad" cholesterol.

However, those who had diabetes or were in danger of getting it increased from 9% in 1999-2000 to 23% in the 2007-2008 survey.

However, May's team says this result "should be interpreted with caution," as they identified these youths by a one-time test for blood sugar levels. This single measure may not be totally dependable in children, May says.

Even so, the findings should be a call to action, the researchers say.

"Parents should be encouraging healthy lifestyles and should also be aware that these cardiovascular risk factors are present during adolescence," May says.

Teens and Heart Changes: New Findings

In a second study, European researchers measured heart size and tested heart function in 97 healthy teens, average age about 13.

The researchers found that the obese teens, even though they had no heart disease symptoms, had damaged hearts. They had thicker walls in the left ventricle, one of the heart's chambers.

As this wall thickens, heart problems are more likely later on in life. 

Dejan Maras, MD, of Luton and Dunstable Hospital in London, is presenting the findings.

His team also found obese teens had a reduction in the speed of blood flow, both when the heart is pumping and when it is resting between beats.

"It is surprising that even in adolescence, the beginning of heart damage happens," says researcher Gani Bajraktari, PhD, professor of internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Pristina in Kosovo. While the damage found was mild, he says it should motivate teens and their parents to reduce obesity and change lifestyle to prevent further damage. 

The European Society of Cardiology hosts the meeting.


Teens and Heart Disease Risk: Perspective

The message from the new research is pretty straightforward, says Reginald Washington, MD, chief medical officer of the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver.

Washington, a member of the Obesity Task Force for the American Academy of Pediatrics, reviewed the findings for WebMD.

"The more you weigh, the harder your heart has to work to circulate blood through the body," he says. "That is a pretty simple concept for people to understand."

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