Overweight and obese children are on the fast track to heart disease, say researchers based on recent findings. However with dietary changes and more exercise, the risk can be significantly reduced.
Researchers used two noninvasive tests to measure atherosclerosis -- the deadly build-up of plaque that leads to heart attacks and stroke -- in the arm and neck arteries of kids. Even though the children had not yet entered puberty, their test results were similar to those normally found in "a 45-year-old adult who had been smoking for more than 10 years." The average age of the kids was about 10 years.
Researchers then assigned the children -- 54 boys and 28 girls -- to one of two groups: a diet-only group or a diet-plus-exercise group. After just six weeks, kids in both groups showed significant improvements in heart disease risk factors. Kids who continued to diet and exercise maintained these improvements after one year.
Thus adopting a healthy lifestyle in childhood is the most cost-effective and practical way to prevent heart disease in adults.