Obesity’s Effect on the Heart
Source: HBO The Weight of the Nation
There's a powerful connection between being overweight or obese and having heart disease as an adult. The heart, our hardest-working muscle, spends every second of every day vigorously pumping blood to the farthest reaches of our bodies. The larger we become, the harder our hearts have to work to keep blood circulating.
The bottom line: Being overweight or obese places you at a higher risk of developing heart disease and suffering a stroke as an adult.
The Bogalusa Heart Study
Overweight and obese children have risk factors for heart disease even at a young age, according to the Bogalusa Heart Study. The Bogalusa Heart Study is the longest and most detailed study of a biracial (black-white) population of children in the world. The community of Bogalusa, Louisiana, is comparable to many other communities in the southeastern United States. The study included 9,167 children ages 5-17 years examined in seven cross-sectional studies between 1972 and will continue through 2016. The focus was to understand the early etiology of coronary artery disease and hypertension. Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen.
Currently there are follow-up studies of the children cohorts, which carries individuals up to the age of 50 years, as well as studies of subjects with/without parental history of coronary heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Observations clearly show that the major etiologies of adult heart disease, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and essential hypertension begin in childhood. Documented anatomic changes occur by 5 to 8 years of age.
- Between 1980–2008 obesity prevalence among U.S. adults doubled and recent data indicate an estimated 34% of adults are obese (BMI ≥ 30)
- More than one in six U.S. children is obese, three times the rate in the 1970s (BMI at or above the 95% percentile of the sex specific BMI for age growth charts)
- According to 2006-2008 self-reported data, African Americans had 51% higher prevalence of obesity, and hispanics had 21% higher obesity prevalence compared with Caucasians.
As a nation, it is clear that we have been getting heavier across the last 30 years. View heat maps of Obesity Trends Among US Adults 1991-2009. Even though obesity prevalence rates are somewhat leveling off, far too many Americans - children included - who are overweight or obese continue to develop heart problems as a result.
Healthy lifestyles should be adopted in childhood, because they are critical to modulation of risk factors later in life. Primary care physicians, pediatricians and cardiologists can play a major leadership role in the prevention of adult heart diseases beginning in childhood. Physicians are encouraged to obtain risk factor profiles on children, along with a family history of heart disease.
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Tulane University The Bogalusa Heart Study
Published On: October 22, 2013