Heart Attack and Stroke Risk Factor Linked to Arterial Stiffness in Children

Monday, November 15, 2010

One of the leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke is being linked with arterial stiffness – not only in adults but also in children, according to a new Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study.

The study shows that arterial stiffness in youth is associated with increased mass of the left ventricle – the pumping chamber of the heart. This LVM, in turn, raises the risk for heart attack and stroke. The study comes just weeks after another Cincinnati Children’s study demonstrating that arterial stiffness can be present in children as young as 10.

The new study will be presented at 9 a.m. Central time Monday, Nov. 15, at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago.

“Screening for arterial stiffness may be useful to identify high-risk youth in need of early treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke,” says Elaine Urbina, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute.

Arterial stiffness is measured using a variety of non-invasive tests, including ultrasound and pulse transducers, which measure an artery's ability to expand and contract as the heart pulses and relaxes.

Arteries stiffen as a result of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include obesity and being overweight, smoking, high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure and high amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes.

Dr. Urbina compared LVM in 670 children between the ages of 10 and 24. She found that youth with stiffer arteries had higher left ventricular mass, even after taking into account other variables, including age, sex and body mass index.

A previous study of Dr. Urbina’s demonstrated that obese children have increased thickness and stiffness of their carotid arteries – both factors associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart attacks in adults. Moreover, abnormal carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain, are found in obese adolescents who do not yet have type II diabetes.

“These findings are particularly disturbing as the prevalence of obesity-related metabolic disorders and type II diabetes in youth increases across the globe and may lead to a parallel increase in adverse cardiovascular outcomes,” says Dr. Urbina. “More aggressive preventive measures, especially the treatment of cardiovascular risk factors in children and teens, is needed now to prevent the current epidemic of obesity from making this the first generation of children to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of just eight children’s hospitals named to the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Report’s 2010-11 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is ranked #1 for digestive disorders and highly ranked for its expertise in pulmonology, cancer, neonatology, heart and heart surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, diabetes and endocrinology, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. Cincinnati Children’s is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for quality and transformation work by Leapfrog, The Joint Commission, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and by hospitals and health organizations it works with globally. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656