Obese Children Face Heart Risk

By Amir Khan on July 25, 2012 10:36 AM EDT

Childhood obesity is a growing problem, and severely obese children are at a high risk for heart disease -- a condition generally thought to only affect older people, according to a new study, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Researchers looked at data from more than 250 severely obese children and found that nearly 70 percent had at least one risk factor for heart disease. Approximately 17 percent had two factors and 2.5 had four or more.

"[The finding] is worrying, considering the increasing prevalence worldwide of Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents," the researchers said, according to Fox News. "Likewise, the high prevalence of hypertension and abnormal lipids may lead to cardiovascular disease in young adulthood,"

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More than 12.5 million American children ages 2 through 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number of obese children has tripled since 1980. Health care costs related to childhood obesity totaled $3 billion in 2009, according to a study published in Nature.

Researchers found that 56 percent of the study participants had high blood pressure, 54 percent had high cholesterol levels, 14 percent had high fasting blood glucose levels, a precursor for diabetes, and 1 percent had type 2 diabetes.

Researchers said work needs to be done to generate early intervention criteria, or else the obesity epidemic will continue.

"Internationally accepted criteria for defining severe obesity, and guidelines for early detection and treatment of severe obesity and [underlying ill health] are urgently needed," the researchers concluded.

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