Heavy Kids Become Teens With Heart Risks

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Preteens with a high body mass index (BMI) have increased risk factors for coronary artery disease in adolescence, researchers found.

Those with a greater BMI between ages 9 and 12 were more likely to have high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol -- the so-called bad cholesterol -- and triglycerides, and insulin resistance at ages 15 or 16, Dr. Debbie Lawlor of the University of Bristol in England and colleagues reported in BMJ.

"Childhood BMI alone adequately identifies those who will be at increased risk of adverse cardiovascular profiles in adolescence," they wrote.

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A higher BMI in childhood has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. But few studies have examined the shorter-term effects.

Among 5,235 children ages 9 to 12 studied as part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, 18.5 percent of the children were overweight and 4.5 percent were obese.

The prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors at ages 15 and 16 ranged from 2.9 percent for high diastolic blood pressure and triglycerides, to 28.8 percent for high systolic blood pressure.

Girls who were heavier at ages 9 to 12 but lost the weight by ages 15 to 16 had similar chances of cardiovascular risk factors to those who were normal weight at both ages.

In boys who were heavier at younger ages, these risk factors still existed later even if they lost weight, but were significantly smaller than those who remained heavy, the researchers said.

"Children who change from overweight to normal weight improve their cardiovascular profiles compared with those who remain overweight in childhood and adolescence," they wrote.