MONDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Heart damage can be present in obese teens who don't have any symptoms of heart disease, a small, preliminary study found.
Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, and previous research has shown that obese adults have damage to their hearts.
In the new study, researchers examined the heart structure and function of 97 adolescents -- 32 lean, 33 overweight and 32 obese -- with no symptoms of heart disease.
The results showed that the obese adolescents had damaged hearts with thicker walls and impaired heart function.
The study is scheduled for presentation today at the Heart Failure Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, an annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.
"Education on healthy food and exercise is needed in schools to prevent obesity and early cardiovascular disease in adolescents," lead author Gani Bajraktari, professor of internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Pristina in Kosovo, said in an association news release. "This is an important step in preventing obesity and cardiovascular disease in adults."
Further studies are needed to determine if heart damage in obese adolescents can be reversed if they lose weight, the researchers said.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about obesity's impact on teen health.
SOURCE: Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology, news release, May 17, 2012
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