HealthDay News — The aortas of obese children show early signs of cardiovascular disease, study findings show.

Obese children had increased arterial wall stiffness index, pulsewave velocity, characteristic impedance, arterial pressure-strain elastic modulus, and peak aortic velocity compared with normal-weight children, Kevin C. Harris, MD, from the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues reported in the American Journal of Cardiology. The findings were first presented in October 2010 at the Canadian Cardiovascular Conference.

Previous studies have shown that obese adults have higher rates of aortic stiffness and arterial disease — strong predictors of future cardiovascular events and mortality — but few studies have examined these biophysical properties in obese children.

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So Harris and colleagues performed noninvasive Doppler echocardiography on 61 obese children and 55 normal-weight controls. They then correlated Doppler findings with lipid levels, and assessed left ventricular dimensions and cardiovascular function. Obese children also underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing.

In addition to the aforementioned aortic abnormalities, obese children had elevated systolic BP compared with normal-weight children. Although standard measures of cardiac systolic function and left ventricular dimensions were similar between the groups, altered diastolic properties were seen for obese children and their left ventricular mass was greater.

There was no correlation noted between lipid levels and the biophysical characteristics of the aorta. Based on cardiopulmonary testing, obese children had a relative oxygen consumption 68% of predicted.

“In conclusion, measures of the biophysical properties of the aorta are already abnormal in obese children, reflecting increased aortic stiffness at this early stage of disease,” the researchers wrote. “Pulsewave velocity might be useful in monitoring the progression of arterial disease or the effect of therapeutic interventions.”

Harris KC et al. Am J Cardiol. 2012; doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2012.05.019.