CHILDREN as young as 10 have already developed risk factors for heart disease and stroke in adulthood.
The worrying study of 102 children, aged 10-12 years, found 16 with three or more risk factors.
The study involved an interview and a medical examination to measure their weight, blood pressure, physical fitness, activity levels and cholesterol.
It found that 29 were overweight or obese, six had elevated cholesterol and five had higher than normal blood pressure levels.
While fitness was good, their activity levels were low with less than half the group getting the recommended hour of exercise a day, the findings to be published in the 'Irish Medical Journal' reveal.
Overall, fewer girls than boys reported getting the proper quota of exercise daily, the researchers at the Department of Physiotherapy in Trinity College revealed.
The authors pointed out that it is widely accepted that many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease have their roots in early childhood and persist into childhood.
"While there is a genetic component to the disease process, lifestyle also plays an important role," they added.
Physical inactivity, poor physical fitness, fat intake, blood pressure and elevated cholesterol are all risk factors.
The incidence of overweight and obesity in boys was 22pc but it was as high as 35pc in the girls tested.
"According to the National Task Force on Obesity, excess body weight is now the most prevalent childhood disease in Europe, affecting one in six children."
The prevalence of being overweight or obese in the Dublin children was similar to previous studies of youngsters in Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe.
One in 10 of the boys showed abnormal blood pressure values and over half of these were overweight with a higher than average body mass index.
"Several of the risk factors are present in the same individual and this clustering is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
"Clustering of risk factors is, therefore, thought to be a better measure of cardiovascular health in young people than single risk factors alone," said the authors.
The number of risk factors was significantly greater in those who exercised for less than an hour a day – and greater again for those who were active for less than half an hour a day.
A recent study in Sweden, involving children of a similar age, also reported that those with low levels of physical activity had a higher risk score for cardiovascular disease.
"Our findings are consistent with the literature to date and highlight the importance of physical activity in childhood," they added.