Student Well-Being

Obese Youths Found to Have Heart Damage

By Bryan Toporek — May 21, 2012 1 min read
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Previous research has determined a direct link between obesity and heart disease in adults, but are overweight and obese youths putting their hearts under a similar strain? Two studies released today suggest so.

One study, presented Monday at the Heart Failure Congress 2012 in Belgrade, Serbia, says that obese youths with no symptoms of heart disease appear to have heart damage already.

The study examined 97 healthy adolescents ages 11-14, dividing them into three categories based on their body mass index measurements: “Lean” (32 youths), “Overweight” (33 youths), and “Obese” (32 youths). Each participant went through an echocardiogram, along with blood tests, to determine how healthy their hearts currently were.

The findings may alarm any parents of obese youths. Despite having no symptoms of heart disease, the hearts of obese youths were already damaged. The thickness of their heart’s left ventricular posterior wall increased relative to their BMI, according to the study. The hearts of obese youths also had functional deficiencies not found in the hearts of the lean or overweight subjects.

“Education on healthy food and exercise is needed in schools to prevent obesity and early cardiovascular disease in adolescents,” said lead author Gani Bajraktari, professor of internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Pristina in Kosovo, in a statement. “This is an important step in preventing obesity and cardiovascular disease in adults.”

Bajraktari and his colleagues say more research is needed to determine whether the damage to the heart can be reversed if obese youths better control their weight.

A separate study published online in the journal

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.