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Teenage weight and heart disease risk

  • What you weigh in your teenage can have far-reaching effects on your heart health in the future. The higher your body mass index (BMI) in your late teens, even if it's well within the normal range, the higher your risk of heart disease decades later.
  • The association of BMI from adolescence to adulthood with obesity-related diseases in young adults has not been completely explained. 
  • To study this, researchers followed 37,674 males, from the time they were first examined for Israeli military service at the age of 17 years, till an average of 17 and a half years later.
  • During that time, 1,173 developed type 2 diabetes and 327 developed heart disease (verified by an angiogram).
  • Overall, men with the highest BMIs in their teens were nearly three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and five times more likely to have coronary heart disease later in life compared to those with the lowest BMIs. 
  • However, when a normal adult BMI was included in the analysis, the higher risk of type 2 diabetes disappeared, suggesting that weight in adulthood is a more important risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes than weight status in your teens.
  • But, it was also found that the risk of heart disease was raised whether or not someone was heavy in their teens or heavy as an adult, suggesting that extra weight at any age affects cardiovascular health.
  • These findings suggest that we should intervene with lifestyle changes as early as possible to reduce the risk of heart disease.
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