Obese kids arteries are middle aged
The neck arteries of obese children and teens look more like those of 45-year-olds.
(Getty Images)
According to research presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, the neck arteries of obese children and teens look more like those of 45-year-olds.

"There's a saying that 'you're as old as your arteries,' meaning that the state of your arteries is more important than your actual age in the evolution of heart disease and stroke," Dr. Geetha Raghuveer noted in a written statement. "We found that the state of the arteries in these children is more typical of a 45-year-old than of someone their own age."

In 70 children aged 6 to 19 years, Raghuveer of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and colleagues used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the inner walls of the neck (carotid) arteries that supply blood to the brain.

Increasing carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT) indicates the fatty buildup of plaque within arteries feeding the heart muscle and the brain, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

The investigators found that the children's "vascular age" - the age at which the level of thickening would be normal for their gender and race - was about 30 years older than their actual age.

"Vascular age was advanced the furthest in the children with obesity and high triglyceride levels, so the combination of obesity and high triglycerides should be a red flag to the doctor that a child is at high risk of heart disease," Raghuveer said.

Further studies are needed to determine whether artery build-up will decrease if children lose weight, exercise, or are treated for abnormal lipids. Some studies have shown that artery build-up can be reduced when children at extremely high risk are treated with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, and that exercise can improve blood vessel function in obese children.

"I'm optimistic that something can be done," Raghuveer said. "In children, the buildup in the vessels is not hardened and calcified. We can improve the vessel walls and blood flow in adults through treatment, and I'm sure we can help children even more."

 What do you do in order to manage your child's weight?

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