New results from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Growth and Health Study suggest that girls as young as age 9 who are overweight are at increased risk for short-term and long-term problems that increase the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. More than 2,300 girls ages 9 and 10 were enrolled in the study and followed for more than 10 years. Researchers measured participants' height, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol annually through age 18, and obtained self-reported measures at ages 21 to 23.
"Childhood Overweight and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: The National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute Growth and Health Study," will be published in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. The study was funded by NHLBI, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, all components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Researchers found that the girls were more than 1.6 times more likely to become overweight during ages 9 to 12 years than in later adolescence. Importantly, those who were overweight were more likely to have elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels compared to girls who were not overweight. In addition, girls who were overweight during childhood were 11 to 30 times more likely than non-overweight girls to be obese in young adulthood (ages 21 to 23).
The study also provides insight into differences between African-American and Caucasian girls. Black girls were 1.5 times more likely to become overweight at any given age than white girls. In addition, from ages 9 through 18, the prevalence of overweight was greater among black girls (from 17 percent to 24 percent), compared to white girls (7 percent to 10 percent).
The study's findings highlight the importance of helping children adopt behaviors to maintain a healthy weight and prevent overweight as early as ages 9 through 12. NIH has a national educational program for families and communities that addresses this need. Called We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition), the program offers helpful resources and evidence-based curricula for community programs targeting children ages 8 to 13 years and their parents or primary caregivers. More than 125 communities in over 34 states are now implementing We Can! programs. Karen Donato, program coordinator for We Can! and for NHLBI's Obesity Education Initiative, is available to discuss the program and other issues related to childhood obesity. More information is also available at http://wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov.
Materials provided by NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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