A new study shows that being overweight leads to heart problems even in children.

Reuters reports on the new study. The report shows that with extra weight, kids’ hearts actually change shape.

Researchers have announced that there are obvious differences in the shape and function of hearts among obese and normal-weight children. The study also showed that the heart characteristics of obese adolescents were similar to those of children with leukemia after chemotherapy.

Dr. Mangner, who led the study, told Reuters, “We do not know if (these changes) are clinically meaningful or necessarily dangerous. This is a cross sectional study and, therefore, we cannot answer this question.” The experts wrote in JACC Cardiovascular Imaging (which is a journal of the American College of Cardiology) that obesity is tied to changes in the heart in adults. Those changes occur even earlier among obese adolescents.

How was the study conducted?

Dr. Mangner and his colleagues took blood samples from over a hundred children between age nine and sixteen years, including sixteen who were obese. The researchers also took sonograms, known as two-dimensional echocardiograms, of the adolescents’ hearts to watch the way their hearts beat.

What were the results?

“The obese youngsters had enlarged chambers on both sides of their hearts. They also had thicker walls in the left chamber, which pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. The obese adolescents’ hearts also appeared to be working harder by pumping a higher volume of blood with each beat, compared to thinner participants,” according to Reuters.

The results also showed that obese children had higher blood pressure readings than thinner participants. The blood pressure readings were fairly normal. But obese participants also had more bad LDL cholesterol and less good HDL cholesterol than the non-obese adolescents.

Left ventricular hypertrophy (an increase in mass of the heart’s walls) is known to be a dangerous factor for heart disease and when it lasts so long it can cause issues for people, especially children. People who are obese and have high blood pressure are more likely to grow up to have thicker walls in the left chambers of the hearts.

Dr. Litwin, an expert who commented on the study, told Reuters,

“The fact that these children today are starting to get high blood pressure, maybe these people will be getting heart disease 20 to 30 years earlier. The changes in the heart do improve if people are able to lose weight - particularly for adults who have bariatric or weight-reduction surgery, adding that those types of surgeries are becoming more common for younger people.”

What can children do to be healthy and lower this risk?

Experts say that simple diet and exercise would go a long way. Not only would it help the children control their way but also these attributes are associated with good health and longevity.

Dr. Litwin says parents should beware though that, “But there’s some other data that suggest that once someone has been obese, they may carry some risk forward once they lose weight. There is a cumulative burden of high blood pressure and cholesterol.”

Doctors say there are transparent differences in the shape and function of hearts among obese and normal-weight kids. Experts are saying that with the dangerous level of overweight children in this country, doctors should be warning parents about this consequence. Numerous parents only hear that their child being over weight or pudgy is generally unhealthy. But experts believe that if these parents are told the exact issues that could arise, such as the heart problem, and then they would take a more productive approach at helping their child lose and maintain a healthy weight.

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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