The arteries of children that are obese or have high cholesterol look like they are 45 years old, according to the findings of a study presented last week at the American Heart Association meetings.
Dr. Geetha Raghuveer, a cardiologist at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine used a sensitive ultrasound device to measure carotid arterial inner wall thickness in such children, who were between the ages of 6-19.
Raghuveer found that the thickness of the inner 2 layers of these arteries (known as the intima and media) exceeded 0.5 mm in 52 of the 70 children tested. That’s what’s normally found in middle aged adults.
The ultrasound method used in this study is considered to be a more accurate measure of cardiac risk than cholesterol levels, blood pressure recordings and most other tests, but it is too expensive to be used in large populations.
“These findings are potentially consistent with predictions that obesity and its complications would result in cardiovascular disease becoming a pediatric illness,” David Ludwig told the New York Times. Ludwig is an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. He had published a study in 2005 predicting that obesity could cut short the lives of children by an average of 2-5 years.
“This is actually looking at the development of atherosclerosis, the process that we know will, if it is not dealt with, lead to heart attack or stroke,” Ludwig added.
About 16% of US children are obese, according to the CDC. Recently the epidemic had appeared to be stabilizing, but the Great Economic Crisis of 2008 may trigger a further expansion of kids’ waistlines, because inexpensive meals are often calorie-leaden.