They found that children as young as 9 years old who had the most risk factors for heart disease had a 37 percent increased risk of thicker carotid arteries -- which supply oxygen-rich blood to the head and neck -- in adulthood, compared with other children.
By age 12, children in the highest heart disease risk factor group had a 48 percent increased risk of thicker carotid arteries. This risk rose to 56 percent by 15, the researchers noted.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Gregg Fonarow, American Heart Association spokesman and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said "atherosclerotic vascular disease can begin early in childhood and adolescence but becomes clinically manifest later in life."
This study provides insights into the early development of vascular disease and has important implications for prevention efforts in children, he said.
"There is currently an important, but largely unmet, need to prevent and reverse cardiovascular risk factors in childhood," Fonarow said.
For more on atherosclerosis, visit the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Markus Juonala, M.D., Ph.D., adjunct professor, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; Gregg Fonarow, M.D., American Heart Association spokesman, and professor of cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Nov. 29, 2010, Ciurculation, online
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