LITTLETON, Colo. - Children as young as eight-years-old are showing signs of heart disease.
The disturbing new research from Linyuan Jing with the Geisinger Health System was presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Florida this week.
But fitness experts say it's not too late to reverse the trend of childhood obesity.
Project MOVE in Littleton, Colorado, is doing something to reverse this very dangerous trend: They teach fitness field trips to elementary school students.
"What we might see in an obese child, or an overweight child, is a just a little picture of what's going on inside the body," said Shane Miller, general manager and co-owner of Project MOVE. "Because there's so much sugar and processed foods, it leaves the inside of our bodies more messed up than we even imagine."
The research found obese children averaged 27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle and 12 percent thicker heart muscle overall. Both are signs of serious impairment that slow the heart's ability to pump blood through the body.
"It's awful," said Stacia Vicars, who goes to Project MOVE with her family. "It doesn't surprise me because of the nutrition and bad habits we've created over time."
The hope is to reverse the childhood obesity trend that has doubled in the last 30 years.
"The children get results so fast," said Miller. "In a matter of weeks to a few short months, a child can drastically change his health."
The children involved in the research did not have physical symptoms of heart disease. The threat was detectable only through MRI scans.