Heart Damage Found in Obese Children

A black and white illustration of one healthy-weight child and one overweight child.

Image: Shutterstock

Obese children as young as eight years old are likely to have sustained damage to their hearts, new research suggests. Scans of obese kids’ hearts show that the muscle has thickened, meaning that it is strained and working much harder than it should be, particularly at such a young age. A strained heart can lead to a stroke, additional heart problems, heart failure, and sudden death.

A study conducted on 20 obese children and 20 children at a healthy weight showed that the obese children suffered from “27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle of their hearts and 12 percent thicker heart muscles—both signs of heart disease,” says the Geisinger Health System, who conducted the study. The implication is that even though the children are young, their weight makes them subject to heart disease as if they were much older.

Obesity in children is measured by their body mass index number. If their weight places them between the 85th and 95th percentile of children the same age, they are considered overweight; if their BMI is over 95%, children are considered obese. One in three children now is either overweight or obese, leading to more health problems—and some sooner rather than later.

The researchers acknowledge that the study tried to account for other signs that would have contributed to heart problems besides obesity. Children with genetic problems, diabetes, other medical concerns were not included in the study; neither were children who were too large to fit into the magnetic resonance scanner, who perhaps were the children who would have benefited most from the research.

Geisinger’s study is an important one. Stephen Daniels, chairman of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says that the research will help us understand how pervasive the problem of obesity in children actually is. “[The study] reinforces the concept that obesity has a negative impact on the cardiovascular system and shows that it can happen at a young age,” he says. “We look at overweight kids, and for the most part, they seem healthy and don’t feel bad. But beneath the surface, there are things going on that are not good for their health.”

The CDC estimates that the percentage of obese children under the age of 11 has more than doubled in the past 30 years. And that number is on the rise. Obesity in youth can lead to severe problems, both now and later, so it is best to teach children to focus on healthy eating and staying active while they are young.

This entry was posted in Health, News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s