Children's Upbringing Affects Heart Disease Risk

Published Online: Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Lead researcher Sarah de Ferranti, MD, MPH, has attributed teens having one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as bad cholesterol readings, to a lack of parental guidance. One study, reported in Circulation (October 12, 2004), found that parents' actions before the birth of a child and through the child's early years of life play a significant role in the child's risk of developing heart disease as an adult.

The current study looked at data on 1960 children (aged 12 to 19) gathered in the Third National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, conducted between 1988 and 1994. The results indicated that the most common risk factor was a low level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, witnessed in 40% of the participants. Furthermore, about 30% had high triglyceride levels, and >30% had waist circumferences that met the definition of obesity. In general, 63.4% had one or more risk factors. Almost 1 in 10 had what cardiologists refer to as "metabolic syndrome"—3 or more major risk factors.

"The most surprising thing is that so many of them had at least one problem," said Dr. de Ferranti. "Nine percent had 3 or more. These children are at high risk of future problems such as diabetes, heart disease, or stroke."

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