Heart doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2012-303125
  • Editorial

Childhood obesity, autonomic cardiovascular regulation and regular physical activity

  1. Maurizio Volterrani1
  1. 1Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico San Raffaele Pisana, Roma, Italy
  2. 2Dipartimento Medicina dei Sistemi, Università Tor Vergata, Roma, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ferdinando Iellamo, Dipartimento Medicina dei Sistemi, Università Tor Vergata, via Montpelier 1, Roma 00173, Italy; iellamo{at}

The current epidemic of childhood obesity is a major public health concern. Early obesity strongly predicts later cardiovascular disease, and excess weight may explain the dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Based on the 2007–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, a report by Ogden et al1 indicates that almost 17% of school-aged children and adolescents are obese, defined as body mass index (BMI) for age at or above the previously established 95th centile. Similar trends have been observed in Europe. In Italy, a large survey study, performed in about 46 000 children aged 6–11 years, indicated that 23% are overweight and 11% obese.2 Childhood obesity strongly relates to early atherosclerosis and obesity-related cardiovascular disease. In children and adolescents, BMI is strongly related to high blood pressure (BP),3 and the prevalence of hypertension ranges from 47% to 62% in obese paediatric patients.4 ,5 The appearance of paediatric forms of chronic diseases such type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and hypertension contributes to increased risks in adult life6. If the increase in obesity were to continue on the same track, researchers have predicted that, by 2020, almost half of US adults would meet the World Health Organization criteria for obesity.7 Excess weight also carries an economic burden. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated a medical cost for obesity-related conditions of 10% of total annual US medical expenses …

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