(RxWiki News) Teens struggling with their weight may already have heart damage. Overweight adolescents without symptoms of heart disease are already suffering cardiac damage.
Previous research has shown that obese adults have structural and functional changes to their hearts. But it was not known if the same was true for teenagers.
Investigators said that their research findings of structural and functional impairment all correlated with BMI and may explain why obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Obesity is considered a major risk factor for heart disease.
"Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy body weight."
Gani Bajraktari, MD, PhD, lead author and a professor of internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Pristina in Kosovo, noted that education regarding healthy foods and physical activity is needed in schools to prevent obesity and cardiovascular disease in younger individuals. This in turn helps reduce obesity and heart disease in adults.
During the study 97 healthy teenagers were grouped into one of three categories: lean, overweight or obese. Each group was comprised of about one third of the participants.
Clinicians grouped the adolescents following weight, height, waist circumference and hip circumference measurements, and after calculating their body mass index (BMI) and waist/hip ratio. Blood and biochemistry tests were performed, and teens also underwent an echocardiogram to evaluate heart health.
After taking several measurements of heart size following the imaging test, researchers concluded that the obese teens already had damage to their hearts. In addition to finding thicker heart walls in teens with a higher BMI, researchers also determined that heart function was reduced among individuals in that same group.
Additional studies will be needed to determine whether the heart damage is reversible if teens lose weight.
The findings were presented Monday at the Heart Failure Congress 2012 in Belgrade, Serbia. The Congress is the main annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.