Canadian doctors have discovered that the blood vessels of obese children have stiffness normally seen in much older adults with cardiovascular disease.
“We were surprised to find that these obese children already have stiff blood vessels,” says Dr. Kevin Harris from B.C. Children’s Hospital. “Aortic stiffness is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease in obese children.”
The mean age of the children in Dr. Harris’s study was 13 years.
He says it is as if the aging process has been accelerated in their aorta.
Dr. Harris and colleagues evaluated 63 obese children and compared them with 55 normal weight controls. Blood pressure was taken, lipids evaluated, and body mass index measured. Children then underwent echocardiography, or ultrasound, of the heart and blood vessels. This test was used to determine the Pulse Wave Velocity in the aorta. This is a measure of how fast blood flows and was one of the measures used to assess aortic stiffness.
“The systolic blood pressure was only marginally higher in these obese children,” says Dr. Harris. Blood lipid levels – total, HDL and LDL cholesterol – were normal. However, ultrasound of the heart showed that the Pulse Wave Velocity and other measures of arterial health were already abnormal in the obese children.
He says these findings are highly significant because the elastic qualities of their aorta were impaired even though other measures of heart health such as blood lipid levels and blood pressure were not dramatically different.
Dr. Harris says the next step should be to determine whether these changes are reversible with treatment such as improved diet and exercise.