"The prevalence of obesity and oversight in the U.S. and all developed countries is on the rise and reaching epidemic proportions among both adults and children," said Dr. David Crowley, lead author of a study on child obesity and a cardiology fellow at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. "In the course of the past three decades, the prevalence of obesity has doubled or in some cases tripled across all pediatric age groups."
Not only have children and teens become heavier, their hearts have become unhealthily thicker, as measured by left ventricular mass (LVM), indicating a higher risk for heart disease down the line.
"Left ventricular mass is a marker of stress on the heart and a predictor of heart attack and stroke," Crowley explained.
Between the mid-1980s and today, average BMIs in this sample of children went from 18.1 to 19.9, while LVM jumped from 31.4 to 32.7. Males and blacks fared worse than their female and/or white peers.
There were nearly twice as many overweight and obese children in the later period compared to the earlier era: 35 percent versus 20 percent. And the number of children with abnormally thick hearts more than doubled, Crowley reported.
"The obesity epidemic is indeed having adverse effects on the hearts of children compared to two decades ago," he said. "Today's children have higher BMI and higher LVM and therefore are at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. If we do not get a handle on this in this country, if kids continue to get heavier, their hearts will inevitably get thicker and kids will be at higher risk of heart attacks and stroke."
Simple denial may be a component of this disaster, speculated a third study. It found that a large proportion of obese people believe their body size is normal and that they don't need to shrink. Some even believe they could safely gain more weight.
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