We have heard so much about the nation's growing obesity epidemic that you would think the news cannot get much worse. But even doctors were surprised by a new report from the University of Missouri at Kansas City unveiled at an annual meeting of the American Medical Association.
They learned that the arteries of obese children are aging way beyond their years - appearing more like those of a 45-year-old. Dr. Kevin Niswender, M.D. of Vanderbilt University says, "To see this degree of what is called atherosclerosis or blood vessel disease in what are essentially 13 year old kids is very surprising".
In the new study, cardiologists used ultrasound to look at the neck arteries of 70 obese children who on average, about 13 years old. They found most of the children already had the fatty buildup of plaque associated with heart attack or stroke. The kids also had abnormal levels of one or more types of cholesterol and an overall "vascular age" of about 30 years older than they were.
So what can you do about it? Medication can help but most think that a healthier diet and increased exercise may still be the best medicine of all since children are young enough to make lifestyle changes and reverse the threat of heart disease before it is too late.
If you are concerned about your child's weight, see your pediatrician for personal health advice.