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Obese Youth Have Early Signs of Heart Problems

Update Date: Oct 08, 2014 03:38 PM EDT

Childhood obesity is a serious condition because it increases the children's risk of becoming morbidly obese adults, which then leads to a greater risk of developing other health conditions. In a new study, researchers examined the heart health of young obese children and discovered early signs of heart problems.

"Children are ideal subjects to observe the effect of obesity on the heart," said the study's lead author Norman Mangner, M.D., of the Heart Center Leipzig. "This is because they are likely free of clinically relevant cardiovascular disease adults may suffer from."

In this study, the researchers from the University of Leipzig Heart Center located in Germany, utilized two-dimensional echocardiography to closely examine any physical and functional signs of heart problems in 101 adolescents between the ages of nine and 16. 61 of them were obese and 40 were not. The echocardiography works by using an ultrasound to create cross sectional images of the heart. It also can assess blood flow through the heart's valves and chambers. On top of that, the researchers performed extensive blood chemistry analyses.

The team discovered that obese children's hearts had specific changes in shape and function that were not noticeable in the hearts of the non-obese children. Obese children also had "a reduction in diastolic function, enlarged heart chambers signs of increased cardiac workload, and other unfavorable conditions," according to the press release. In addition, obese children had higher blood pressure, higher levels of low-density lipoprotein, known as "bad" cholesterol and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol.

The study's findings add on more reasons why childhood obesity needs to be addressed and prevented.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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