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Children's Health

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Children's Belly Fat Affects Heart Risk

High Waist Circumference in Kids Increases Risk of Heart-Related Disorders
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 19, 2010 -- Children with higher levels of belly fat have higher pulse pressures, which puts them at risk for heart-related disorders, a new study finds.

Gangadarshni Chandramohan, MD, of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, says doctors should measure children’s waist circumference to judge their level of obesity, rather than the commonly used body mass index, which is a ratio of weight to height.

Chandramohan and colleagues studied data on 4,667 children between 6 and 17, all part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is done by the CDC in Atlanta.

Body Mass Index Doesn’t Correlate to Higher Pulse Pressures

“We found the children’s body mass didn’t correlate to higher pulse pressures,” Chandramohan says in a news release. “This study suggests pediatricians add waist measurements to their routine screening of children to help determine the risk of heart-related disorders.”

He says measuring children’s waist circumference is simpler and more cost-effective, but also “a more valid method of screening for the risk of heart-related disorders than the current practice of determining a child’s body mass.”

Previous research, he says, has shown that a high pulse pressure -- the difference between the systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings -- increases a patient’s risk of heart-related disorders, as does high blood pressure.

New Methods Need to Be Used to Measure Obesity

“It is crucial that new indices for measuring various physiologic parameters such as obesity and associated cardiovascular risk factors be determined using valid, minimally invasive, and cost-effective tools to help patients avoid long-term health concerns,” Chandramohan says.

Chandramohan and colleagues say in an abstract for the meeting that obesity rates have been increasing in children for decades along with various cardiovascular risk factors.

In the study, 48% of the children were males, 74% were white, 36% Hispanic, 36% African-American, 11% obese, and 27% had high waist circumferences.

Pulse pressure was “significantly higher” in children with large waists. The study was presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s Renal Week, which the group bills as the world’s premier meeting in nephrology.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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