Cardiac Risks in Current Generation of Children and Teens Portend Higher Rates of Adult Heart Disease

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Children have higher cardiovascular risk factors today than they did a generation ago, raising the possibility that they will have a higher prevalence of heart disease as adults, according to a new Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study.

In particular, the current generation of children has a higher body mass index (BMI) and a heavier weight of the heart’s left ventricle, which is a known risk factor for heart attack or stroke.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando.

“By contrasting groups of children separated by approximately two decades, we showed the average weight in our study populations was approximately 11 pounds higher, and the prevalence of obesity tripled compared to the previous generation,” says David Crowley, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s and the study’s lead author. “If current generational changes were to continue at this rate, half of American children would be overweight in just two generations time.”

The researchers studied 350 children and teens who underwent echocardiography at Cincinnati Children’s between 1986 and 1988. They compared them to another 350 who underwent echocardiography in 2008. None of the 700 had heart disease.

The researchers also found that a heavier weight of the left ventricle, known as left ventricular mass, was higher in 2008, in part because children were heavier than in the previous generation.

“Health care professionals shouldn’t accept current trends in childhood BMI and left ventricular mass when determining if children are healthy and have normal hearts,” says Tom Kimball, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s and the study’s senior author. “Pediatricians and family physicians must start measuring children’s BMI as early as age 3 and help families reverse it if required.”

Dr. Crowley will present his study on Tuesday Nov. 17, but he will first discuss it at 2 p.m. Eastern time Nov. 17, as part of a news conference in the news media center at the AHA meeting.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of 10 children’s hospitals in the United States to make the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Reports 2009-10 America’s Best Children’s Hospitals issue. It is #1 ranked for digestive disorders and is also highly ranked for its expertise in respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care, neurosurgery, diabetes, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

President Barack Obama in June 2009 cited Cincinnati Children’s as an “island of excellence” in health care. For its achievements in transforming health care, Cincinnati Children’s is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656,