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When it comes to looking out for your health, ways to minimize your risk factors for heart disease should be at the top of the list. After all, cardiovascular or heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States. What you may not realize is that heart disease is no longer an adult-only disease. Many of the risk factors for heart disease - obesity, lack of physical activity, and high blood pressure, for example – are on the rise in children and teens. As the number of risk factors in children continue to increase, so does the risk of developing heart disease prematurely.
While it may sound a little dramatic to worry about heart disease in children, consider the following facts:
• childhood obesity is three times higher today in 2011 than in 1963
• childhood obesity has now replaced drug abuse and smoking as the main parental concern
• obesity related conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are on the rise in children
• overweight children are more prone to psychosocial factors such as depression, low self esteem and poor self image
• obesity rates in non-Hispanic white children are currently almost 32 percent in boys and 30 percent in girls
• obesity rates in non-Hispanic black children are almost 31 percent for boys and almost 40 percent in girls
• obesity rates in Hispanic children are alsmot 41 percent in boys and 35 percent in girls
At least one Finnish study found evidence of adult carotid artery intima-media thickness or IMT, in children with heart disease risk factors as young as 9 years old. The presence of IMT in these children means that the carotid artery wall is already thicker than it should be, increasing their risk of developing atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up in the arteries. The carotid artery is the main artery responsible for supplying much-needed blood and oxygen to the neck and brain. Not surprisingly, researchers also found that children with multiple risk factors for heart disease were more likely to develop premature atherosclerosis.