New Research Links Unhealthy Habits During Childhood to Heart Disease
by Selin Gok, age 16
Medical researchers are uncovering links between
unhealthy habits during childhood and risk for heart disease later in life.
This is mainly due to the growing concerns about the cardiovascular health of
millions of children in the United States who are considered obese or
overweight. Researchers have found that the relative age and state of a child’s
arteries play a primary role in determining their risk for cardiovascular
Triglycerides are an indicator of fat and sugar
levels in the blood stream. Their structure consists of a backbone of fat with
three sugars attached. A calculation of triglycerides is a simple way to assess
a child’s arterial health. Determined by a standard blood test, this
calculation is the ratio of triglycerides to HDL, also known as good
cholesterol. However, this calculation is often overlooked.
A study at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Medical Center, which included 900 children and young adults, investigated their
cardiovascular heath. It revealed that the higher the ratio of triglycerides to
HDL, the greater the possibility of having stiff and damaged arteries.
“Stiff vessels make your heart work harder. It
isn’t good for you,” said Elaine Urbina, head of preventive cardiology at
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and lead author of the study.
Hardening of the arteries is a major problem among
adults. It typically starts early. A combination of aging and the amassed
impact of blood pressure over time cause health problems later. When found in
children, stiff arteries are a sign of “accelerated aging” and raise the risk
of heart problems.
In another study conducted by Dr. Urbina and her
colleagues, individuals ages 10 to 26 participated in a fasting experiment to
see if there was a similar correlation of high triglyceride-to-HDL ratio and
arterial stiffness in children. The results showed that one third of the
participants had stiff arteries.
“Being overweight and the cholesterol problems
that often accompany it have an important impact on your blood vessels,”
suggests Sarah de Ferranti, director of preventive cardiology at Boston
Instead of resorting to medication, the American
Heart Association recommends that children with these problems change their
lifestyle. One way for kids to lead a healthier lifestyle is by cutting down on
sugary beverages and junk food, and exercising daily. By doing this, children
can possibly begin to repair the damage done to their arteries.
[Source: The Wall Street Journal]