• Vol. 38 No. 1, 48–56
  • 15 January 2009

Cardiovascular Risks Associated With Obesity in Children and Adolescents



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Introduction: The aim of this paper is to review the cardiovascular (CVS) risks associated with obesity in children and adolescents. Both short-term and long-term CVS consequences, the mechanisms of how these develop and the measures that can alter or reverse these CVS events are reviewed.

Materials and Methods:Selected publications include original articles and review papers that report on studies of CVS risks and consequences related to childhood obesity. Some papers that contain data from adults studies are also included if the contents help to explain some underlying mechanisms or illustrate the continuation of related CVS changes into adulthood.

Results: Obese children and adolescents have an increased risk for CVS complications that include elevation of blood pressure, clustering of CVS risk factors (Metabolic Syndrome), changes to arterial wall thickness, elasticity and endothelium, as well as changes in left ventricular structure and function. Some of these cardiovascular problems may be initiated or potentiated by obstructive sleep apnoea that can accompany obesity in children. Many of such changes have been noted to reverse or improve with weight reduction.

Conclusions:Early development of CVS risks in obese children and the possible continuation of CVS complications into adulthood have been observed. Obstructive sleep apnoea in obese children can further contribute to such CVS risks. These findings underscore the importance of prevention of childhood obesity as a priority over management of obesity in children.

The prevalence of obesity has risen by three-folds or more in many countries since 1980. In 2005, it was estimated that globally there are about 1.6 billion overweight adults and at least 400 million of them are obese. This increase in the prevalence of adults being overweight and obese comes with a heavy price. The cost of healthcare has significantly increased and is expected to increase even more because of the close association between obesity and various chronic diseases.

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