Half of Overweight Teens at Early Heart Risk

Hypertension and diabetes increase puts overweight adolescents at added cardiovascular risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A soaring increase in the number of teenagers suffering from diabetes means that more than a third of presumably healthy normal-weight adolescents are at risk of heart disease.

That risk is even more substantial among teens who are overweight, and more than 60 percent of obese teens were at future risk of heart attacks and other adverse cardiovascular events.

"Maintain a healthy weight to lower heart disease risk."

Ashleigh May, lead researcher and an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined recent trends in the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease among teenagers.

During the study, 3,383 teens between the ages of 12 and 19 were surveyed through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a national research program to assess changes in health and nutrition of U.S. adults and children.

The teens were surveyed, weighed and measured between 1999 and 2008. They also underwent laboratory tests including blood work.

CDC investigators found that 14 percent had pre-hypertension or high blood pressure, while 22 percent had borderline high or high bad LDL cholesterol and 6 percent had low good HDL cholesterol. They also discovered that 15 percent of the teens had diabetes or were near developing diabetes.

Though the prevalence of hypertension and high cholesterol increased only slightly, the increase in the number of adolescents with diabetes was substantial, increasing from 9 percent to 23 percent.

Researchers concluded that 61 percent of obese teens were at risk for cardiovascular disease, compared to 49 percent of overweight teenagers. However, even normal weight teens were at an added risk. Of that group 37 percent had at least one risk factor for developing heart disease.

The research was published Monday in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 21, 2012
Last Updated:
July 31, 2012