Heart Disease in 8-Year-Olds?

Obese children as young as 8 years old can show signs of heart disease, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2015.

The study compared 20 obese children with 20 normal-weight kids, revealing that obesity was associated with a 27-percent increase in muscle mass in the heart, as well as 12 percent thicker heart muscles.

As symptoms of heart disease, these structural changes suggest that many obese children are considered high risk for cardiovascular complications.

"Parents should be highly motivated to help their children maintain a healthy weight," said Dr. Linyuan Jing, lead study author and a researcher at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania. "Ultimately we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible; however, it is possible that there could be permanent damage. This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle."

No physical symptoms

None of the children in the study had physical symptoms of heart disease, but obesity left untreated can cause serious complications and premature death, the researchers warned.

About one in three children between the ages of two and 19 are overweight or obese, which puts them at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Children even younger than the age of 8 may exhibit signs of heart disease, Jing noted.

"This was alarming to us," he said. "Understanding the long-term ramifications of this will be critical as we deal with the impact of the pediatric obesity epidemic."

Source: American Heart Association

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