Heart Health at Risk for Obese Kids

A new study shows overweight kids can suffer advanced arterial damage.

Nov. 12, 2008 — -- Artery damage is something most people associate with adults, but a new study from Children's Mercy Hospital in Missouri shows overweight kids can suffer advanced arterial damage.

In fact, some of the obese youngsters in the study had arteries that looked 30 years older than they should have. "Good Morning America" medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard explains the effects of arterial damage in children and what parents can do to diagnose and reverse their children's vascular damage.

Does a child with plaque in his or her arteries have more hope than an adult?

It's still early for a child. The buildup of plaque hasn't happened as long, so the plaque is still soft, and there is reason to believe from other research that the progression can be stopped and even reversed.

What can a parent do?

Make sure your kids get their cholesterol and blood pressure checked on a regular basis. All kids should have that done. That's especially true if they are obese with high cholesterol, or if you have a family history of heart disease, such as a father who had a heart attack before 55, or a mom who had a heart attack before 65.

And for any kid that's overweight or obese, this is just more of a reason to do what we already know is good: live a healthy lifestyle with a heart healthy diet and exercise, and get enough sleep.

In severe instances where lifestyle changes haven't been enough, the American Academy of Pediatrics has agreed that medication is a possibility, but that's not a first resort.