Half of overweight adolescents in the U.S. have high blood pressure problems, cholesterol or glucose levels that put them at risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, says a new federal study.
And an even greater number of obese adolescents are equally at risk, as reflected in the alarming figures recently obtained.
“What this shows is that unfortunately we are losing the battle prematurely with many children,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, an expert from the School of Medicine, University of Colorado, who was not involved in the study.
People can keep your risk of heart disease if they get very low at 45 or 50 with normal weight and with normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol and without diabetes. Therefore these results are not good, he said.
The study was reported in the journal Pediatrics (Pediatrics).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the cases of 3 000 383 adolescents aged 12 to 19. All children underwent an intensive nationwide study during which they met, they took the weight, measure physical and medical tests.
The study by the Centers is considered of great importance to identify health trends nationwide, said Dr. William Mahle, pediatric cardiologist at Emory University.
The good news, Mahle said, is that the study found no increase in the level of obesity, high blood pressure or bad cholesterol in the years of the study from 1999 to 2008.
“We all look for some indication or sign that we’re making some progress,” said Mahle, who was not involved in the study. “So the reassuring,” he said.
But as if deteriorated: the percentage of adolescents who were diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes increased significantly from 9% to 21%. The prediabetic glucose level is higher than normal but not so high as to be considered diabetes.
It is unclear why the proportion of children with high blood sugar increases when measures of other risk factors remain stable. You may have something to do with the type of test used to measure blood sugar, said Daniels.
Teens in the study underwent a blood test that gave various results depending on the day and time that the sample was taken. Other tests, although more complete and more expensive, they are considered more accurate.
Daniels said it is possible that another test method could not have produced such a high number.
That’s possible, said Ashleigh May, the epidemiologist who led the study centers.
“This study is the first step in identifying the problems of youth. Further testing is needed to identify what is happening and the benefits of using several methods in this population,” he said.
Overall the study found that 50% of children are overweight and 60% of obese youth had at least one possible risk factor for heart disease in the future.
But normal weight children are not without risk, because 37% had at least one risk factor and would be able to increase their risk to suffer heart disease as adults, the study said.