Kids' health predicts parents' future heart disease

Parents suffering from high cholesterol or blood pressure found to have higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes.

January 28, 2012 07:59
2 minute read.
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Parents of children suffering from high cholesterol or blood pressure have been found to have a higher incidence of heart disease and diabetes later on, a US study said, Screening children is important, not only for themselves, but for the clues it may yield to the health of parents who may not always go for check-ups themselves, said the researchers, whose study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers found that a 12-year-old's weight, cholesterol and blood pressure helped predict the odds of a parent developing heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes over the next three decades.

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"Pediatric risk factors - cholesterol, triglycerides, high blood pressure - identified families where parents were at increased risk," said Charles Glueck of Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati, one of the researchers.

It's estimated that about 15 to 20 out of every 300 US children may have high cholesterol that's related to diet and lifestyle.

The study included 852 school students who, at an average age of 12, had their cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides and weight measured. They were re-assessed 26 years later, as were their parents, who were then 66 years old, on average.

In nearly half the families, or 47 percent, a parent had suffered a heart attack, stroke or needed a procedure to clear blocked heart arteries by the end of the study. In 37 percent, a parent had developed diabetes.

Overall, Glueck's team found, parents were about twice as likely to suffer early heart disease or stroke, at age 60 or younger, when their child had had high blood pressure at age 12.

Parents' odds of cardiovascular problems at any age were also higher when their child had had high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, or triglycerides.

When children were overweight, their parents' odds of developing diabetes or high blood pressure doubled.

In an earlier study, Glueck's team found that childhood test results also predicted the children's own risks of developing heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure by their late 30s.

Last November, the US National Institutes of Health issued new guidelines saying children should have their cholesterol measured between the ages of 9 and 11, and again between the ages of 17 and 21. The American Academy of Pediatrics also endorsed the recommendation.

But the effectiveness of these recommendations remains under debate, with some experts saying that there's no hard evidence that the screenings help children's heart health in the long run. Such mass screenings would also be expensive.

Glueck acknowledged the debate but said he felt the current study, plus another recent analysis of the same group of people, provided some needed information.

"If you know children's risk factors, what does that tell you? It tells you a lot," he added.

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