Children who are obese or those who are at risk for obesity show early signs of heart disease similar to obese adults with cardiac problems and these signs can help predict who could be at risk, scientists said.
Obesity is a major global health problem that has reached epidemic proportions with more than one billion overweight adults – at least 300 million of them clinically obese.
It is a major contributor to the global burden of chronic disease and disability.
Those who are overweight during childhood also have an increased risk of obesity in adulthood and are at greater risk for complications, the study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found.
They include diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease because obesity increases total blood volume, which leads to extra stress on the heart, a foreign medical news reported recently.
Scientists based their findings after analysing data from 168 children aged 10 to 18 who had been referred to them for cardiac ultrasounds with symptoms including heart murmur, chest pain, acid reflux or high blood cholesterol.
The scientists found the rate of motion of heart muscle changed in patients who are obese.
“As a child’s BMIA (body mass index for age), we see alterations in both the relaxation and contraction phase of the heartbeat,” researcher Angela Sharkey said.
BMI is a statistical measure of the weight of a person scaled according to height.
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 what we thought, Sharkey said.
“We may be able to determine whether we could intervene in the process, such as focusing the families on understanding the importance of regular exercise and dietary modifications for weight loss and prescribing statin drugs for high-blood cholesterol,” she said.
Further study is needed to determine how soon changes in the heart set in after a child becomes obese and whether those changes are reversible with weight loss.