Why Your Weight as a Teen Is Important

Posted 08/08/2016 | By HealthCorps

You may not like being overweight as a teen. Despite your unhappiness, it can also be really hard to shed the excess weight. Maybe knowing what the future holds, health wise, can inspire you to lose weight. A new study suggests that your weight as a teen has been linked to a risk of heart failure in early middle age.

The study

Researchers followed over 1.6 million Swedish men, from their teen years into early middle age, during the years of 1968 through 2005. Teens were considered normal weight with a BMI range of 18.5 to 25. Until recently, Swedish men were required to enlist in the armed forces at age 18. At the time of enlisting, rigorous physical examinations occurred. The researchers analyzed data, collected from 1,610,437 men from the registry, who had follow up physicals over the course of five to forty two years, with the average follow up time clocking in at 23 years. During that observation time period, 5492 men were admitted to the hospital for heart failure. The average age of that diagnosis was 47 years old.

The researchers correlated BMI values at age 18 to the heart event data. They found that:

• Compared with men who had a BMI between 18.5 and 20 at age 18, men with a BMI of 20 to 22.5 had a 22% increase of risk of heart failure.
• The risk nearly doubled for men with a BMI of 22.5 to 25 and more than tripled for men who had a BMI between 25 and 27.5 at age 18.
• The risk increased six fold for men who had a BMI between 30 to 35 and was nearly ten-fold for those with a BMI of 35 or more at age 18 when they registered for the Swedish army.

The researchers did point out some limitations for the study: it only examined data from men and it did not have strong data on weight after that initial physical exam. Despite the limitations of the study, this was a very large group of subjects so the researchers believe the findings do have significant implications.
Currently healthcare professionals do focus on risk factors that can put someone at a higher likelihood of developing certain worrisome health conditions like heart disease. This study suggests that a teen’s weight may be a strong predictor for future heart disease and for dangerous cardiac events. It’s important to emphasize to teens the possible future consequences of being overweight or of gaining excess weight during their teen years.

Of course, intercepting childhood obesity can help to dramatically limit the risk of a child becoming an overweight teen. Parents, educators, and pediatricians all need to play a role in reducing or modifying the risk of childhood and adolescent obesity. Programs like HealthCorps and HCU (HealthCorps University) help, by offering nutrition, fitness and mental strength education and support in select high schools nationwide.

Source: European Heart Journal

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