By Chioma Obinna

Nigerian parents and their counterparts who do not monitor the lifestyles of their children may have a rethink as new study has detected early signs of heart disease in pre- adolescent children with Type 1 diabetes.

According to medical experts, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in patients with diabetes. Clinical records have also shown that patients with type 1diabetes have a 200 to 400 percent greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease than those without diabetes.

Many other studies have shown that the burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the world is enormous and growing, and the majority of those affected are in developing countries like Nigeria. Africa has not been spared this global tide of CVD. In most African countries CVD is now the second most common cause of death after infectious disease, accounting for 17 percent of total deaths. Projections from the Global Burden of Disease Project suggest that from 1990 to 2020, the burden of CVD faced by African countries will double. A large proportion of the victims of CVD will be middle-aged people. The poor will suffer disproportionately as a consequence of their higher disease risk and limited access to health care.

The new study published in the February 2, 2011 online version of Diabetes Care discovered that early signs of cardiovascular disease are likely to manifest before the onset of puberty in many children with diabetes.

In the findings, the researchers studied 21 preadolescent children (avg. age 8.5 years) with type 1 diabetes, and compared that group to 15 healthy siblings. Investigators looked at flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), a gauge of the health of a major blood vessel of the upper arm artery, in both groups. FMD percentage (FMD%,) is a way to measure any stiffening of the blood vessels; stiffening blood vessels is an early precursor of cardiovascular disease.

Children who had high blood pressure, family history of high cholesterol or premature cardiovascular disease from other causes were excluded. Blood samples were collected from all participants to monitor cholesterol and sugar levels.

When tested, the blood vessels of children with type 1 diabetes had a lower FMD percentage change, which means their blood vessels were less expandable than the control group suggesting that higher circulating glucose results in increased rigidity of blood vessels independent of serum cholesterol levels. The patients with diabetes also had vascular inflammation, which is a known harbinger of future cardiovascular risk. Long-term studies are needed to evaluate the progression of those vascular changes through puberty and beyond.

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