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Obese children showing arteries of 45-year-olds

By Marilynn Marchione
Associated Press / November 12, 2008
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NEW ORLEANS - Obese children as young as 10 had the arteries of 45-year-olds and other heart abnormalities that greatly raise their risk of heart disease, say doctors who used ultrasound tests to take a peek inside.

"As the old saying goes, you're as old as your arteries are," said Dr. Geetha Raghuveer of Children's Hospital in Kansas City, who led one of the studies. "This is a wake-up call."

The studies were reported yesterday at an American Heart Association conference.

About a third of American children are overweight and one-fifth are obese. Many parents think that "baby fat" will melt away as kids get older. But research increasingly shows that fat children become fat adults.

"Obesity is not benign in children and adolescents," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a former heart association president and cardiologist at the University of Colorado-Denver. It is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended cholesterol-lowering drugs for some children.

Raghuveer wanted to see if early signs of damage could be documented.

She and colleagues used painless ultrasound tests to measure the thickness of the wall of a major neck artery in 70 children, ages 10 to 16. Almost all had abnormal cholesterol and many were obese.

No one knows how thick a 10-year-old's artery should be, so researchers used tables for 45-year-olds, who often do get such exams.

The children's "vascular age" was about 30 years older than their actual age, she found.

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