SUNDAY, Nov. 12, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Children with heart disease risk factors -- obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol -- already show indications of fatty build-up in their arteries that could cause heart attacks when they're adults, Canadian researchers report.
"Primary prevention of heart disease must start in childhood. We need to start looking at and treating risk factors for heart disease in children," researcher Dr. Sanaz Piran, an internal medicine resident at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., said in a prepared statement.
Piran and her colleagues reviewed data on 3,630 children, ages 5 to 18, who took part in 26 studies in Australia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States. Those studies used noninvasive methods to measure arterial blood flow and the thickness of artery walls in children with and without heart disease risk factors.
In many cases, children with heart disease risk factors showed early signs of atherosclerosis.
The review was expected to presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, in Chicago. The findings highlight the need for parents and doctors to prevent and treat cardiovascular risk factors in children, the authors said.
"Diet and exercise are especially important to curb the escalating problem of childhood obesity," Piran said.
"Obesity puts children at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Children's diets have changed dramatically, influenced by television commercials and the convenience of fast foods," she said. "Children are eating too much fatty and processed foods. Parents need to involve their kids in regular exercise activities and cut down on fatty meals, emphasizing healthy food such as vegetables."
Parents should not smoke in the presence of children and, if there's a family history of high cholesterol, children need to have their cholesterol levels checked, Piran said.
"The very things we recommend to adults should be recommended to parents for their children. There needs to be a family-oriented approach to cardiovascular prevention and to addressing these risk factors," she said.
The American Heart Association has more about children's health.