Two recent studies have shown that children who are obese are at a greater risk of developing heart disease in adulthood than children who maintain a healthy weight. According to a study by Mayo Clinic endocrine trainee Dr. Charles DelGiorno and fellow researchers at Nemours Children’s Clinic, obese children can develop blood abnormalities that can cause them to be predisposed to developing heart disease later in life.
Childhood Obesity Studies
In Dr. Delgiorno’s study, 300 children between the ages of 7 and 18 of various weights and who did not have a hereditary trait for heart disease were tested for known markers that predict the risk of heart disease. The study showed that childhood obesity can be an added risk factor in developing heart disease later in life.
In another study by Dr. Asheley Cockrell Skinner and fellow colleagues it was found that obese children as young as three years old were twice as likely to develop heart disease than their leaner counterparts. Obese children showed to have “elevated levels of inflammatory biomarkers that can lead to future cardiovascular disease risk”.
U.S. Epidemic of Childhood Obesity
The Childhood Obesity Research Summit sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA) found that childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled over the past 30 years. In children as young as 2 to 5 years old, 14% are overweight and register in the 85th percentile or higher in weight. With today’s fast paced lifestyles offering less chance for exercise and more on-the-go high-fat meals, children are paying the price by becoming less healthy. If this trend continues, these children will grow up to be obese adults whose lives will be cut short from heart disease.
Reversing the Risk of Heart Disease in Children
The good news is that parents can reverse the risk of their child developing heart disease later in life by helping their child become healthy now. The University of Michigan Health System offers this advice for parents who want to help their child lose weight.
- Don’t make the child’s weight an issue. This can cause the child to feel insecure, angry or rebellious. Implement healthy changes for the entire family instead of targeting the overweight child.
- Stop buying unhealthy foods. Parents do have control over how their child eats by purchasing foods that are healthy and skipping the unhealthy foods. Have plenty of fruit, vegetables and healthy snacks available so the child isn’t tempted with candy, cookies and potato chips.
- Prepare healthy meals. Grill or bake foods instead of frying and add vegetables or salad as side dishes.
- Be a positive role model. Eating healthy and exercising is good for everyone so teach your child to be healthy by living that way too.
- Make exercise a daily occurrence. Take walks with the children, play basketball, bike or swim. Also, encourage children to participate in sporting activities that they will enjoy.
Children who maintain a healthy weight are more likely to be healthier as they grow into adulthood. Help your child by implementing a healthy lifestyle so she can lower the risk of developing heart disease later in life.