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Kids with heart-disease risk factors don't get a free pass on their effects

February 11, 2010 |  5:27 pm

Doctors and public health officials have become increasingly concerned about the number of kids with the risk factors for heart disease -- high body-mass index, glucose intolerance, elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol. But they've been less clear on how those factors affect life span.

Logic might suggest that each of these factors would increase the likelihood that lives would ultimately be cut short.... But it's always wise not to assume.

Research sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has clarified the long-term picture a bit. It found that, yes, childhood obesity, glucose intolerance and high blood pressure are in fact connected to an increased risk of adult premature death -- meaning before age 55. But not high cholesterol. See? Best not to assume.

Here's the full study, of almost 5,000 American Indian children, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers point out that cholesterol levels are lower in American Indians than in other groups, but in any case, they're mostly focused on the effects of obesity. The study did little to allay their concerns.

In referring to the increasing global prevalence of childhood obesity, their conclusion states:

Our observations, combined with those of other investigators, suggest that failure to reverse this trend may have wide-reaching consequences for the quality of life and longevity. Such evidence underscores the importance of preventing obesity starting in the early years of life.

Here's more on heart disease risk factors in kids and teens, from the Texas Heart Institute. Helpful, do-something-about-this-now advice is included.

-- Tami Dennis