By Tim Bonfield
Enquirer staff writer
Extreme obesity in children directly changes the structure of their hearts and puts them at increased risk of heart attack later in life, according to a study reported Wednesday from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Among "morbidly obese" youth, who weigh 250 to 300 pounds or more, the excess weight can double the thickness of the wall of the left ventricle, the pumping chamber of the heart.
"The thicker a patient's heart, the more likely the patient is to potentially have issues with reduced blood flow. If this goes unchanged, by middle age these children are much more likely to have a heart attack," said Dr. Tom Kimball, a cardiologist at Cincinnati Children's and senior author of the study.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Echocardiography in San Diego.
The researchers used painless echocardiograms to study the hearts of 343 patients at Cincinnati Children's who ranged in age from 5 to 23.
The good news: the researchers did find that 43 patients who lost weight through a four-month diet and exercise regimen also reduced the thickness of their heart muscle, and reduced their risk of heart attack.
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