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Study: Childhood Obesity May Quadruple Hypertension Risk in Adulthood

One-third of U.S. kids and teens are overweight or obese (September 12)

Obese children quadruple their risk and overweight children double their risk of developing hypertension in adulthood, according to a study presented Sept. 12 at the American Heart Association (AHA) High Blood Pressure Research 2013 Scientific Sessions, held in New Orleans.

Researchers tracked the growth and blood pressure of 1,117 healthy adolescents in Indianapolis, Indiana, for 27 years, starting in 1986, and found:

  • During childhood, 68% of the kids were a normal weight; 16% were overweight; and 16% were obese.
  • As adults, 119 of the participants were diagnosed with hypertension.
  • Hypertension was noted in 6% of normal-weight children; in 14% of overweight children, and in 26% of obese children.

According to the AHA, the new findings highlight the public health threat posed by overweight and obesity in childhood. One-third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese, meaning their body mass index (BMI) is at least the 85th percentile or at least the 95th percentile for their age and gender, respectively. BMI is the relationship between height and weight.

The study results are also part of the growing evidence that heart disease may start in childhood, said author Sara E. Watson, MD.

“It is important that pediatricians counsel patients on the risk of high blood pressure associated with overweight and obesity, and stress that a healthy diet, including reducing salt intake, and exercise may help reduce this risk,” Watson said. “Interventions to prevent and treat obesity will play an important role in decreasing the significant burden of high blood pressure in adulthood.”

Source: AHA; September 12, 2013.

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