Experts don't know as much about child obesity as they do about the condition in adults, but they're slowly learning more.
So far, it's not looking good.
A new study in BMJ says kids and teens who are obese – that is, have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater – may be dealing with more risks than previously thought.
Researchers from the University of Oxford found that heavy kids tend to have more than one risk factor for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar and a thickening of the heart muscle.
Until this study, which looked at the weight and general health of nearly 50,000 children, researchers only knew of a link between adult obesity and heart disease. They weren't sure about whether the same association held for child obesity, but these findings are a significant addition to a growing body of evidence that says it does.
While what these researchers came up with is "substantial and concerning," as the study's authors wrote, they say they need to do more work to determine the precise ages where overweight children will need to take action to protect their heart health.
That may be part of the reason why the World Heart Federation (WHF) is pushing the message this year that you shouldn't wait until you have a problem to be mindful of your heart health.
Pointing to a survey that says most people believe age 32 is when folks ought to start taking steps about their heart health, the WHF says a person's heart disease risk begins in early life.
"The fact is good heart health starts from childhood," said WHF president Dr. Sidney Smith, Jr. in a statement. "We have an opportunity to change the course of [heart disease] and its global impact, by encouraging and supporting heart-healthy living from an early age."
The latest data available from the L.A. County Department of Public Health showed that at the beginning of the millennium, South Los Angeles had some of the worst rates of heart disease in the county. In Council District 9, for example, heart disease and stroke took away more than 2,400 years of life for every 100,000 people.
The WHF created World Heart Day in 2000 in an effort to inform people that heart disease is the world's leading cause of death, along with stroke. This year, World Heart Day takes place on Saturday, September 29.
Photo by Jasleen Kaur via Flickr Creative Commons.