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Obesity Rolling Back Gains in Heart Health
Date:11/17/2009

Studies show risk factors rising among children and adults, with many denying they have a problem

TUESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Surging obesity rates, especially among children, may be putting the brakes on progress made in the past few decades against heart disease, researchers report.

And it doesn't help that many obese or overweight Americans still consider their weight "normal," as one study found.

One of several studies on the subject of obesity presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., found that adults' blood pressure and blood sugar levels are continuing to rise, fueled in large part by expanding waistlines.

This is swamping recent heart-health improvements such as lowered blood levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol or fewer people smoking, experts said.

Poring over government data between 1988-1994 and 2005-2006, researchers found that adult Americans' average body mass index (BMI) rose from 26.5 to 28.8 over that time span. To put that in context, a BMI of 25 marks the beginning of overweight, while doctors use a BMI of 30 as the threshold for obesity.

More people did achieve optimal LDL levels (22 percent versus 28 percent) and were non-smokers (rising from 45 percent to 50 percent) during the same time period, but those gains were outweighed by fewer people having good blood pressure (48 percent versus 43 percent) or blood sugar control (falling from 67 percent to 58 percent).

In fact, "many people feel the decline in [heart] risk factors is leveling off and there will be an acceleration of cardiovascular disease," said AHA spokesman Dr. Roger Blumenthal, professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Things don't bode well for the next generation, either: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics now put the number of obese children an
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