NEW ORLEANS - Obese children as young as 10 had the arteries of 45-year-olds and other heart abnormalities that greatly raise their risk of heart disease, say doctors who used ultrasound tests to take a peek inside.
"As the old saying goes, you're as old as your arteries are," said Dr. Geetha Raghuveer of Children's Hospital in Kansas City, who led one of the studies. "This is a wake-up call."
The studies were reported at a recent American Heart Association conference.
About a third of American children are overweight and one-fifth are obese. Many parents think that "baby fat" will melt away as kids get older. But research increasingly shows that fat kids become fat adults, with higher risks for many health problems.
"Obesity is not benign in children and adolescents," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a former heart association president and cardiologist at the University of Colorado-Denver. It is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended cholesterol-lowering drugs for some kids, he noted.
The kids' "vascular age" was about 30 years older than their actual age, Raghuveer found.