High blood pressure risk in kids soaring

High blood pressure risk in kids soaring

More than likely you’ve read statistics on adult hypertension or high blood pressure: 67 million American adults or 31 percent have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s 1 in every 3 American adults.

But a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension online this month revealed that now America’s children and adolescents are at risk for elevated blood pressure. In fact, the risk rose 27 percent during a 13-year period, according to the research.

The probable cause? An increasing number of kids have higher body mass, larger waistlines and are consuming too much sodium, researchers said.

“High blood pressure is dangerous in part because many people don’t know they have it,” said Bernard Rosner, lead study author, in a statement. “It’s a very sneaky thing. Blood pressure has to be measured regularly to keep on top of it,” added Rosner, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

High blood pressure creates increased risk for stroke, heart disease and kidney failure, which accounts for about 350,000 preventable deaths annually in the United States, the study revealed.

Normal blood pressure for adults 20 years old and older should be less than 120/80 mm Hg. Normal blood pressure for children and teens vary according to age, gender and height.

Researchers surveyed more than 3,200 children between the ages of 8 and 17 from 1988 to 1994 and compared these findings with more than 8,300 children surveyed from 1999 to 2008. Researchers accounted for differences between the two groups in age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass, waistline and sodium intake.

Although researchers noted “elevated” readings, the children could not be labeled hypertensive because an official diagnosis comes after high blood pressure readings three times in a row.

The research revealed some key findings:

  • Boys were more likely to have elevated blood pressure, but the rate increased more dramatically in girls from the first study to the second.
  • In the second study, more children were overweight, and both sexes, but particularly girls had bigger waistlines.
  • Children with a body mass or waistline measurements in the top 25 percent for their age group were about twice as likely to have elevated blood pressure as those with measurements in the bottom 25 percent.

In terms of daily sodium intake, more than 80 percent of participants in both studies had above 2,300 milligrams, however, in the later study, fewer participants had an intake above 3,450 milligrams.

On average, Americans eat an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, which is more than twice the 1,500 or less recommended by the American Heart Association. Two-thirds of sodium intake is from store-bought foods and one-quarter from restaurants.

“Everyone expects sodium intake will continue to go up,” Rosner said. “It seems there’s been a little bit of listening to dietary recommendations, but not a lot.”

Studies have linked excessive sodium in the diet to high blood pressure, and have suggested that reducing sodium intake in children and adolescents can lower the average systolic (top number) blood pressure by 1.2 mm Hg and average diastolic number (bottom number) pressure by 1.3 mm Hg.

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  1. So it’s all about excessive sodium intake that’s increasing the risk of developing high blood pressure. If this is the cause, then i think we can all do something about it. Let’s reduce or keep sodium in the diet in moderation. Let’s engage our kids in physical activities to keep them active and physically fit.

  2. Eileen A. Jones August 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm · Reply

    It’s actually alarming knowing that kids at their young age can already acquire high blood pressure risk that’s why it is important for us parents to start practicing them into healthy living. Early on we should already do something to prevent this kind of problem. It’s usually too much salt intake that can be the culprit to most people, young and old.

    • Yes, Eileen, it is terribly alarming! But I agree that instilling healthy habits early on definitely helps.

  3. what are your thoughts about using an L-Arginine product to lower blood pressure naturally?

    • Hi, M Heart,

      I’m not a doctor, but I do know that L-arginine is an amino acid that our bodies already produce and in supplement form can help open arteries, but I’m not sure if the body produces it naturally how effective it would really be.

      That’s just my two cents. Interesting question though.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.