Children have higher cardiovascular risk factors today than they did a generation ago, raising the possibility that they will have a higher prevalence of heart disease as adults, according to a new Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study.
In particular, the current generation of children has a higher body mass index (BMI) and a heavier weight of the heart’s left ventricle, which is a known risk factor for heart attack or stroke.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando.
"By contrasting groups of children separated by approximately two decades, we showed the average weight in our study populations was approximately 11 pounds higher, and the prevalence of obesity tripled compared to the previous generation,” says David Crowley, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s and the study’s lead author. "If current generational changes were to continue at this rate, half of American children would be overweight in just two generations time.”
The researchers studied 350 children and teens who underwent echocardiography at Cincinnati Children’s between 1986 and 1988. They compared them to another 350 who underwent echocardiography in 2008. None of the 700 had heart disease.
The researchers also found that a heavier weight of the left ventricle, known as left ventricular mass, was higher in 2008, in part because children were heavier than in the previous generation.
"Health care professionals shouldn’t accept current trends in childhood body mass index (BMI) and left ventricular mass when determining if children are healthy and have normal hearts,” says Tom Kimball, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s and the study’s senior author. Kimball is also a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "Pediatricians and family physicians must start measuring children’s body mass index (BMI) as early as age 3 and help families reverse it if required.”
Crowley will present his study on Tuesday Nov. 17, but he will first discuss it at 2 p.m. Eastern time Nov. 17, as part of a news conference in the news media center at the AHA meeting.