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Heart Disease Health Center

Obese, Diabetic Youths Have Artery Plaque

Findings Suggest Early Heart Disease
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What Should Kids' Arteries Look Like?

It was not clear how abnormal the carotid arteries of the obese and diabetic children, teens, and young adults in the study were because there is little to define normal in these age groups, Urbina says.

“We know what the carotid arteries of someone who is 35 or 40 are supposed to look like, but we are not really sure what they should look like in younger people because this has not been studied,” she says.

Until those studies are done, she says, screening at-risk children for artery damage makes little sense.

“If this does become an effective screening tool, it could help us identify the really high-risk kids who should be on blood pressure drugs or statins [for high cholesterol] or who would benefit from [weight loss] surgery,” she says.

In another recent study, researchers reported that the carotid arteries of obese children and teens whose average age was 13 resembled those of an average 45-year-old.

The lead author of that study tells WebMD that the increasing burden of obesity among children may translate to significantly more heart and vascular disease in as little as a decade.

“We know how to take care of adults with risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but we know much less about how to best address these risk factors in children,” says cardiologist and professor of pediatrics Geetha Raghuveer, MD, of the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Medicine.

Columbia University cardiologist Lee Goldman, MD, and colleagues used a computerized model to predict heart disease incidence in the coming decades. The model suggests that by 2035, 100,000 additional cases of heart disease will occur in the U.S. as a result of the current obesity epidemic.

The finding was published late in 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Goldman says the newly published research does not prove that heart disease related to obesity and diabetes is occurring earlier in life, but the research as a whole is pointing in that direction.

“This is one more piece of evidence in a logical link that type 2 diabetes in adolescence is looking like type 2 diabetes in adults, and that is bad,” he tells WebMD.

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