The obesity rate in the United States has been steadily rising for decades. (Check out this link for an eye opener—scroll down right away so you can see the US map of obesity change right before your eyes.) Well, the obesity rate in children is also at an all-time high. In 2009 to 2010, about 34 percent of US adolescents aged 12 to 19 years were overweight or obese. And being overweight or obese puts adolescents at increased risk for later development of heart disease. This is a considerable healthcare concern as our children age.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at 3,383 adolescents and found that 61 percent of obese adolescents and 49 percent of overweight adolescents had one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure or pre-high blood pressure, borderline or high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or pre-diabetes or diabetes), when compared to 37 percent of normal weight adolescents.

As you can see, although the obese and overweight adolescents had higher risk, the normal weight adolescents were not entirely in the clear at 37 percent. Due to the metabolic imbalances seen in these children, they may be categorized as skinny–fat—they appear to be normal weight, but may have underlying metabolic dysfunction that can put them at risk for heart disease. This is also seen in adults, and often goes undetected.

Major dietary and lifestyle changes are needed in this country, and indeed throughout most of the world, so that we can prevent and even reverse cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in the United States. Our children’s lives depend on it.