A new study published in the Winter 2007 issue of the Journal of Cardiometabolic Syndrome finds that early signs of heart disease appear in obese children or in children at risk for obesity.
"Based on this study, these subtle markers can help us predict who could be at risk for heart disease and heart attacks," said Angela Sharkey, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine and a pediatric cardiologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Nationally, 19% of children in the 6 to 11 age group and 17% of children aged 12 to 19 are overweight, which amounts to an epidemic says the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Being overweight during childhood means a higher risk of adult obesity, with the possibility of diabetes, elevated blood pressure and heart disease.
Dr. Sharkey and Dr. Steven M. Lorch of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston reviewed data from 168 children aged 10 to 18 who suffer from heart murmur, chest pain, acid reflux or hiogh blood cholesterol. CDC guidelines for BMIA indicated that 33 patients were obese, 20 had a BMIA putting them at risk for obesity, and 115 were considered normal.
The obese children’s hearts were evaluated by Drs. Sharkey and Lorch using a new tissue Doppler imaging technique called vector velocity imaging. This tracks the movement of the heart’s muscular wall: changes in the rate of motion of heart muscle were averaged within each group and compared to the normal rate of motion.
"In the patients who are obese, the rate of motion of heart muscle changed," Sharkey said. "As a child’s BMIA increases, we see alterations in both the relaxation and contraction phase of the heartbeat. Many of these changes that have been seen in adults were assumed to be from long-standing obesity, but it may be that these changes start much earlier in life than we thought."
The results of the study, said Dr. Sharkey, help physicians in counseling patients and parents about the risks of obesity and the importance of achieving a normal weight.
"Even in teenagers, obesity leads to decreased myocardial performance and abnormal diastolic function," she said.
Source: Washington University in St. Louis