According to Medscape News and a study published in Hypertension, elevated blood pressure among children and adolescents rose 27% in a 13-year time period.
“High blood pressure is dangerous because many people don’t know they have it,” said Bernard Rosner, PhD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Blood pressure has to be measured regularly to keep on top of it.”
Dr. Rosner’s studied involved 3248 children, aged 8 to 17 years, in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III from 1988 to 1994, and 8388 children in 1999 to 2008.
They found that the proportion of children with a body mass index (BMI) in the 85th percentile or higher increased. “The obesity epidemic in children makes it plausible that prevalence of elevated [BP] are increasing over time,” the authors write.
In boys, the prevalence of elevated blood pressure increased from 15.8% to 19.3%, and in girls, it rose from 8.2% to 12.6%. However, researchers could not conclude the prevalence of hypertension.
Factors that were independently associated with prevalence of elevated BP were BMI (or obesity) and sodium intake.
The authors of the study noted a few limitations, such as a single dietary intake assessment using a 24-hour recall, insufficient power to assess lower levels of sodium intake, and a lack of data regarding physical activity.
Elevated blood pressure leads to increased risk for stroke, heart, disease, kidney failure, and death. As shown in the study, decreasing BMI and sodium intake will lower these risks.
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