One in eight N.C. schoolchildren display three or more heart risks

CHAPEL HILL -- More than one in eight rural North Carolina schoolchildren tested had three or more risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a heart disease precursor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have found.

"The risk was about 1.6 times higher for girls than for boys," said Dr. Joanne S. Harrell, professor of nursing and director of the Center for Research on Chronic Illness at the UNC School of Nursing. "I want to alert people to the potential dangers and motivate them to help our youth increase physical activity and avoid obesity."

Harrell, the lead researcher, reported her group's findings Sunday (Nov. 9) at an American Heart Association scientific meeting in Orlando, Fla. Co-authors are Dr. Robert G. McMurray, professor of exercise and sport science in the College of Arts and Sciences; research assistant Leila Amorim and project manager Dana Creighton, both of nursing; and Dr. Shrikant I. Bangdiwala, research professor of biostatistics at the School of Public Health.

Metabolic syndrome consists of the heart disease risk factors high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, lower-than-average high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) levels, glucose intolerance, elevated insulin and excess weight. The syndrome boosts the risk of diabetes as well as heart disease.

"These were regular, normal kids, but we found risk factors that are clear danger signs for the future," Harrell said. "If nothing is done, many of these children could develop type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

Investigators examined 3,203 students -- 1,679 girls and 1,524 boys -- between ages 8 and 17. Each lived in a rural N.C. county with no city over 50,000 people. Of the children, 47.9 percent were white, 42.4 percent black and 9.7 percent other races.

Children were evaluated for body mass index, blood pressure, two types of fats in their blood and two indicators of how well they processed glucose. Results repor

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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