Heart-Disease Risks Can Begin in Childhood

Ongoing research suggests that a sedentary lifestyle can impair arterial health in young children.

Heart Disease

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can result in poor arterial health — the common first sign of cardiovascular disease — in children as young as age 6. That’s the latest finding from the ongoing Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study sponsored by the University of Eastern Finland.

Researchers began assessing the physical activity and sedentary behavior of 160 children ages 6 to 8 in 2007. Their tests included pulse-contour analyses, which can identify early signs of atherosclerosis.

The researchers found higher arterial stiffness — which causes the heart to exert more force to pump blood — in children with lower levels of physical activity combined with a high body-fat percentage. Kids who were more physically active had the most flexible arteries and the best arterial-dilation capacity.

According to the researchers, the findings published in July 2015 in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports “suggest that a lifestyle intervention in childhood can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases later in life.”

Heidi Wachter is Experience Life's staff writer.

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