Children with risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol and diabetes, are showing signs of narrowing and hardening of the arteries, conditions normally associated with adults, a study said.
An increasing number of children suffer from these and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including obesity, but testing for future heart conditions is not standard practice, according to a report presented at the annual American Heart Association meeting in Chicago.
Testing should include regular blood lipid and glucose level testing, said the report’s lead author, Sanaz Piran, a resident at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Earlier treatment could include more aggressive use of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, she said.
“Atherosclerosis begins in childhood,” Piran said. “We need to do this primary prevention early on to decrease cardiovascular events later in life.”
Researchers found that children at risk already show signs of heart disease, including arterial wall thickness and decreased flexibility of blood vessels.
Statins, the best-selling class of drugs in adults, include Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor, Merck & Co’s Mevacor and AstraZeneca Plc’s Crestor.
The study culled data from studies that included 3,630 children, comparing the healthy versus those with cardiovascular risk factors.
In 12 of 15 studies examined, children with risk factors were more likely to have increased thickness in the arterial walls, which could lead to heart attacks in adulthood, the report said.
The percentage of overweight young people in the United States has roughly tripled since 1980 to about 18 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.