Childhood obesity is turning into some perverse, reverse fountain of youth. It’s no secret that the issue is tipping the scales, but new findings show problems not before anticipated; blood vessels of obese children have stiffness normally seen in much older adults with cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Kevin Harris who spoke to the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 this week.
He says these findings are highly significant because the elastic qualities of their aorta were impaired even though other measures of heart health such as blood lipid levels and blood pressure were not dramatically different.
“We were surprised to find that these obese children already have stiff blood vessels,” says Dr. Harris from B.C. Children’s Hospital. “Aortic stiffness is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease in obese children.” He says it is as if the aging process has been accelerated in their aorta. Increased stiffness of the aorta is typically associated with aging and is a strong predictor of future cardiac events and mortality in adults.
“The normal aorta has elastic qualities that buffer the flow of blood. When that elasticity is lost, aortic stiffness results – a sign of developing cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Harris told the meeting. “Aortic stiffness is associated with cardiovascular events and early death.”
The mean age of the children in Dr. Harris’s study was 13 years.
“We know there is an association between unhealthy lifestyles and heart disease. Our kids are at risk,” says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson. “Poor nutrition and inactivity are threatening their health and well-being. We must rethink the lifestyle standards we have accepted as a society to protect the future health of our kids.”