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Prev Cardiol. 2001 Summer;4(3):116-121.

Emergence of obesity and cardiovascular risk for coronary artery disease: the Bogalusa Heart Study.

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Tulane Center for Cardiovascular Health, Department of Epidemiology, Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112.


The underlying determinants of cardiovascular risk are governed by both genetic and lifestyle factors. One of the major adverse outcomes of unhealthy lifestyles is obesity, the genesis of which begins in childhood. Obesity, an important risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, persists (tracks) strongly from adolescent years to adulthood. Secular trends toward increased obesity in the past 25 years have occurred in children and adults alike. Of interest, baseline adiposity precedes hyperinsulinemia in all age groups, independently of race, sex, and baseline insulin levels. Adiposity is an independent predictor of the risk of developing the cluster of risk variables of the metabolic syndrome X, beginning in childhood. Exposure to a multiple risk factor burden over time enhances the development of coronary atherosclerosis and hypertensive cardiovascular disease. In fact, autopsy studies in youths have shown that the extent of fibrotic atherosclerotic plaques in coronary arteries, measured antemortem, increases markedly with the presence of syndrome X risk variables. Further, in overweight children, insulin levels are associated with left ventricular mass. In young people, overnutrition, coupled with physical inactivity, leads to weight gain. Since obesity, unhealthy dietary habits, and a sedentary lifestyle are interrelated and modifiable, prevention and intervention must begin in early life.

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