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Adolescents with Diabetes, Obesity Show Signs of Cardiovascular Disease Similar to Adults, Children’s Hospital Study Finds

Study found diabetic and obese children had arterial stiffness similar to adults up to age 59

Researchers at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh have found that adolescents as young as 8 who have type 2 diabetes or are obese have early signs of cardiovascular disease comparable to middle-aged adults.

The researchers, led by Silva Arslanian, MD, an endocrinologist and director of Children's Center for Weight Management and Wellness, studied 62 adolescents. They used ultrasound to measure the arterial stiffness in 20 teens with type 2 diabetes, as well as in 22 normal-weight and 20 obese teens without the disease.

The adolescents, ages 8-18, with type 2 diabetes had stiffness of the arteries with a degree comparable to adults ages 41-59. The obese teens in the study also exhibited increased arterial stiffness than the normal-weight patients. The results suggest these children are at increased risk for premature aging of the cardiovascular system, according to Dr. Arslanian.

Results of the study are published in the May issue of Diabetes Care.

"With the rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity exploding in childhood, our results indicate that the beginning stages of heart disease may appear in childhood and by the time these patients enter adulthood, they may be at extremely high risk for heart attacks and other complications," Dr. Arslanian said. "The results emphasize the need for prevention of these diseases in childhood through proper nutrition, activity and adoption of healthy lifestyle."

The rate of children who are overweight or obese has more than tripled since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 9 million children (16 percent) between the ages of 6-19 are overweight.

Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for up to 95 percent of diabetes cases in the United States is strongly associated with obesity (more than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight), inactivity, family history of diabetes, a history of gestational diabetes, and racial or ethnic background.

Once seen only in adults, type 2 diabetes has been rising steadily in children, especially minority adolescents-African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans, according to reports from clinics around the country.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008