Large Hearts in Young Obese Children

Obese children are showing signs for an elevated risk for signs of heart disease. This risk applies even to children as young as 8 years of age. Also, obese children had 27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle as well as thicker heart muscles—both signs of heart disease compared with normal-weight children. Forty percent of the obese children were considered “high-risk” because of problems with thickened muscle in the heart as well as impaired pumping ability. These findings are troublesome because of the prevalence of childhood obesity in recent years, particularly in the United States. More than one third of all young children in the nation are either overweight or obese. The Bogalusa Heart Study, a long-term project begun in 1972, found problems in children, including elevated cholesterol levels owing, in part, to weight. In the study, children were between 8 and 18 years of age. The hearts of the obese children were much more likely to have been enlarged by weight and, heart muscles, on average, were 12 percent thicker, compared with those of normal- weight children. Youngsters with high blood pressure and a high body mass index (BMI) are at an increased risk of ventricular hypertrophy later in life. The data have raised concerns that heart enlargement begins in childhood.

(Source: American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, November 7–11, 2015)

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