Can you predict the likelihood of a child becoming a victim of heart disease?

Childhood obesity has become a national epidemic in the Unites States. And it's no wonder when school cafeterias serve these tasty treats. Seemore fast food pictures.

Imagine a time when there wasn't a stack of bills piled up on your desk. A time when you had no boss to breathe down your neck, when you had no reason to wage a daily war with traffic. A time when there was no such thing as stress, and your health wasn't something you needed to worry about. No, this isn't some kind of alternate reality -- it's called childhood. Most adults would probably agree that children have it made. Sure, they depend on others for their safety and well-being, but the life of a child is pretty sweet. Play dates, bubble gum-flavored toothpaste and "Dora the Explorer" are the most important things on a child's to-do list.

The childhood years may be stress-free, but they're very important years. What happens in childhood can have a serious impact on what happens later in life. A child who shows aptitude for learning may be a better student in high school and college. A kid with good hand-eye coordination could end up a superior athlete. If you can carry a tune at three, you may star in a Broadway musical at 33. Unfortunately, bad things also play a part in a child's development -- there are a few telling signs in children that could indicate whether they'll suffer from heart disease later in life.

The most obvious factor is whether your child is obese. Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. Nearly one in every five children is overweight and researchers at the University of California have predicted a 16 percent rise in heart disease by the year 2035 if these children remain overweight in adulthood [source: NBC]. Another study in Denmark determined that a 13-year-old boy that's 25 pounds (11 kilograms) overweight is 33 percent more likely to develop heart disease as an adult [source: NBC].

The main reason that childhood obesity is a precursor to heart disease is that children who are overweight are more likely to become overweight adults [source: American Heart Association]. Carrying extra weight as an adult means you're likely to have higher blood pressure and cholesterol, both precursors to heart disease. Childhood obesity is an obvious way we can predict whether a child may have heart disease later. But there are some other factors that aren't so obvious -- and some you can't even control.