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Childhood Obesity Leads to Enlarged Hearts

Before you consider giving in to your kid's latest pleas to make a quick detour to the local fast food joint on the way home, a new study from researchers at Tulane University ought to make you think twice about it. Weight gain that begins during childhood is a consistent predictor of heart size in young adults. In fact, body mass index (BMI) and high systolic blood pressure were separate markers of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), an over-development of the left side of the heart that can lead to heart attack or heart failure.

Researchers tracked the progress of some 450 patients as they aged for more than 21 years, measuring their height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides roughly every four years. During the last six months of the study, the now-adult patients underwent echocardiography examinations to determine their left ventricular mass (a measure of heart size).

When BMI was analyzed in quartiles and compared to adult left ventricular mass index, BMI in the highest quartile in both childhood and adulthood correlated with the largest heart size in young adults.

These numbers aren't terribly surprising to me, particularly with the childhood obesity epidemic in full swing in numbers much higher than the CDC ever anticipated. The good news is that childhood obesity is far easier to prevent as long as parents take an active role.

My short list of suggestions to get that process started:

Science Blog November 24, 2004

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