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Children's Health

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Blood Pressure Rising in Kids

Overweight, Obese Kids Seeing the Highest Blood Pressures
WebMD Health News

March 5, 2004 -- Today's overweight first grader is likely to have high blood pressure before he or she finishes high school, according to heart researchers.

Obesity in children is now considered a major public health problem, and the concern is well placed, says Rebecca Din-Dzietham, MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the social epidemiology research division of the department of community health and preventive medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. She tells WebMD that new research confirms that just as obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure in adults; it is also behind dangerous increases in blood pressure in children. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Din-Dzietham presented the study results at the American Heart Association's 44th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

The researchers looked at data on black and white children taken at several points from the early '70s to the mid-'90s. From 1971 to 1980, there was little change in weight and blood pressure among children, she says. But after that, "children started gaining weight and it just continued to climb." By the time the '90s rolled around, it was clear that obesity was increasing in America's children but blood pressure was not yet affected.

But that changed with the latest data, which were collected from 1999 to 2000.

"When we compared the results of the 1988 survey to the data collected in 1999, there was a sharp and significant increase in blood pressure," she explains.

Blood Pressure Rising in Kids

In all categories -- normal weight, overweight, and obese -- blood pressure was higher, but in the overweight children blood pressure climbed an average of 4.2% compared with a 2.6% increase among normal-weight children.

Daniel Jones MD, dean of the school of medicine at the University of Mississippi in Jackson, tells WebMD that the study results carry a chilling message. "It means that this is not just something that we suspect will happen, this is real. The obesity epidemic is real and the health consequences are real." Jones was not involved in the study.

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