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Heart Disease Starts Early in Life
Date:5/14/2008

And childhood obesity is a key culprit, study says

WEDNESDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- The path to heart disease begins in childhood, and that means preventive measures must be embraced by those at risk long before adulthood, researchers report.

Two of the biggest threats to heart health that trace back to childhood are prehypertension -- blood pressure just below the official high blood pressure reading of 140/90 -- and obesity.

"The message of the Bogalusa Heart Study is that coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension and heart disease all begin in childhood," said study director Dr. Gerald Berenson, a professor of cardiology at the Tulane Center for Cardiovascular Health, in New Orleans.

Berenson was to present the findings Wednesday at the American Society of Hypertension annual meeting, in New Orleans.

The goal of the Bogalusa (Louisiana) Heart Study is to tease out the early natural history of cardiovascular disease. It's the longest and most detailed study of a biracial population of children and young adults in the world.

One aspect of the study was to evaluate the importance and impact of prehypertension, a term Berenson dislikes because "it may give somebody an idea that they don't have a disease and don't need to be treated for it. It should not be looked on as innocuous."

Indeed, people in the study with prehypertension had more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including obesity, high levels of blood fats such as cholesterol, and diabetes.

A report on a group of 1,379 young adults in the study showed that 27 percent of them had prehypertension, while 13 percent had true high blood pressure. There were significant gender and racial differences, with prehypertension found in 35 percent of the men compared with 22 percent of the women. Black males were more likely to have high blood pressure -- 28 percent -- than while males, 12 percent.


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