Battle against heart disease begins in childhood

October 20, 2006

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of sickness and premature death in adults.

However, damage to the blood vessels that causes problems in older Australians actually begins in childhood.

The risk factors present in children and the ways to protect children from developing early blood vessel damage is the focus of research being conducted by a team of Sydney-based researchers.

Dr Julian Ayer from the Heart Research Institute is leading that team and has been awarded a $55,000 Pfizer Australia Cardio Vascular Lipid (CVL) Research Grant in an investigation of the early life determinants of cardiovascular risk and disease.

Dr Ayer's study - conducted in conjunction with the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research - involves more than 500 eight-year-old children.

The study aims to determine what are the most important factors present in childhood that lead to changes in the structure and function of blood vessels.

In particular the research is looking at whether birth weight and rapid weight gain early in life are risk factors for later heart disease.

"This is important research because of the high and rising rates of childhood obesity in Australia", Dr Ayer said.

"We know that overweight and obese children have increased rates of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The effect of these factors in children as young as eight has not been looked at before."

The study is also investigating the effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, found most abundantly in fish oils, on the blood vessels of these children.

"Half the children had their diet supplemented with Omega - 3 Fatty Acids earlier in childhood, in a study looking at preventing asthma. We are now looking at whether this may have had a beneficial effect on the heart."

The Pfizer Australia CVL Research Grants were established in 1999 to support clinical research into cardiovascular disease or related therapeutic areas.

They are open to Australian medical graduates who have entered the field of research (or who have returned after an appropriate break) within the last five years.
-end-
Funding for the CVL Research Grants will be up to $55,000. Each grant is for 12 months.

Pfizer Australia will allocate $1 million per annum to this initiative as part of their continued commitment to cardiovascular research in Australia.

Pfizer Australia is the nation's leading research-based health care company. It discovers, develops, manufactures and markets innovative medical treatments for both humans and animals. Pfizer Australia is investing more than $45 million in local research and development. For more information visit www.pfizer.com.au

MEDIA CONTACTS

Dr Julian Ayer, Heart Research Institute.

Adrian Dolahenty, Pfizer Australia Media Affairs on (0438) 656 175

Catherine Bourgeois, Pfizer Australia Clinical Research Manager - Cardiovascular on 02 9850 3202

Research Australia

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