London: Obesity is putting more and more of our children at risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, which can damage their hearts, according to a study.
The study found that blood pressure of obese kids is 40 per cent higher than that of healthy youngsters and they have up to nine times more cholesterol in their blood, the Daily Mail reported.
Oxford academics warned that even in children as young as five, their arteries have become lined with fatty deposits so their hearts have to work harder to pump blood.
The study that involved nearly 50,000 five to 15-year-olds found the hearts of obese children were enlarged compared with those of youngsters who were a healthy weight.
And the blood pressure and cholesterol of some was already so high that unless they change their lifestyles, they could be 40 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke in adulthood.
“It’s almost like a ticking time bomb of damage going on in their hearts and blood vessels,” the paper quoted Dr Matthew Thompson, one of the study’s authors, as saying.
Although researchers have long known that obese children tend to have slightly higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, they were shocked at the differences compared with those of normal weight –particularly in obese girls, who had far higher blood pressure than healthy youngsters.
The researchers also found cholesterol levels, measuring fatty deposits in the arteries, were between 7.5 and nine times higher than normal.
“The relationship between obesity in children and cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure was much greater than we anticipated,” said Researcher Dr Carl Heneghan, reader in evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford.
“The magnitude of the effect of obesity upon increasing cardiovascular risk in children is deeply worrying in terms of their future risks of heart disease,” he noted.
The researchers believe obese children’s hearts gradually become enlarged due to the strain of having to pump blood through the partly blocked blood vessels.
Although they are unlikely to suffer a heart attack or stroke soon, they will be at far higher risk by the time they reach adulthood.
The finding was published in the British Medical Journal.