The obese kids were at risk though it was reversable with moderate exercise schedule, an Australian researcher said.

"All it takes is 40 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week," David Celermajer, a heart researcher at Sydney Medical School, was quoted as saying by AAP news agency on Wednesday.

He and his team believed a body mass index (BMI) above 23 was unhealthy.

"We have found that 11- and 12-year-olds whose BMI is 25 have already damaged their blood vessels," he said, adding regular exercise can restore the vessels to a healthy state in about a year.

"It can be recreational sport or games at school. They don't need to run a marathon but they must build up a light sweat. The exercise must be sustained or the benefit will be lost," he said.

"You can't just do it for a year and stop," Celermajer said.

"Another risk factor that can be reversed is passive smoking," he said.

His findings are based on a study of 15-year-old children that shows passive smoking causes damage to blood vessels. But this can also be reversed in most cases with a smoke-free environment for three years.

"The simplest is for the parent to stop smoking or not smoke near their children.

Celermajer and his team are now aiming to find a way to reverse the risk faced by children with a low birth weight. "I don't want to panic people. But those who weigh under 2.5 kg at birth are at increased risk of heart attacks and stroke," said the researcher.

"We think it is highly likely to be reversible. People know about cholesterol, smoking and obesity. The next frontier is low-birthweight babies," he says.

"The knowledge that heart disease begins in childhood or young adult life gives tremendous hope, we can delay or prevent catastrophic heart attack and stroke in middle age," said Celermajer.


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