SATURDAY, June 5, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Children with diabetes are more likely than other children to have stiff blood vessels that don't function properly, says a University of Florida Health Science Center study.
That's a potentially dangerous situation for children with diabetes, because prolonged high blood sugar levels combine with family history, inflammatory factors and other medical problems to cause the deterioration of blood vessel health over the years, pediatrician Dr. Michael Haller noted in a prepared statement.
He presented the research June 5 at the American Diabetes Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
He and his colleagues measured pressure waves created in blood vessels when the heart pumps blood into the arteries. In healthy children, blood vessels responded to blood flow by dilating. But in children with diabetes, blood vessels were more rigid.
"On the basis of epidemiologic studies, we know that diabetes confers a significant increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular event when you compare that to the risk for those people who don't have diabetes," Haller said.
"Most physicians treating children with type 1 diabetes tend to underestimate the significant risk for future cardiovascular disease, or at least they think the risk doesn't start to increase until these children reach their late teen years," he said.
Doctors need to encourage all children -- and especially those with diabetes -- to adopt heart-healthy habits at a young age, Haller said.
"It is well known that optimal control of blood sugar and blood pressure are vital to reducing risk. At the same time, family history and exercise play an important role, and there are potential things we could do to further reduce risk, such as aggressively lowering cholesterol, lowering our accepted ranges for blood sugar control and improving blood pressure control," Haller said.
The National Diabetes Education Program has more about diabetes in children and adolescents.