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Children's Health

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Healthy Diet Helps Kids' Blood Pressure

Serving Up Fruits, Veggies, and Dairy Can Keep Blood Pressure in Check for Years
WebMD Health News

Jan. 20, 2005 -- Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products can help kids avoid high blood pressure into their teen years -- and perhaps, for a lifetime.

It's no secret that kids fare best on healthy diets. Reams of research have shown that's true for healthy weight and development. Kids are also more likely to avoid obesity and eat healthfully as adults if they ate nutritiously as children.

But no one knew if healthy diets also helped kids' blood pressure. It seemed possible, since a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure in adults.

Also for years, experts have urged grown-ups to restrict their salt to about 1 teaspoon a day. The government's new dietary guidelinesnew dietary guidelines stress eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; limiting saturated fats, sugar, alcohol, and salt; and getting plenty of exercise.

However, no studies had been done to see if the same strategy worked for kids.

Kids at Risk for High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure among children Blood pressure among children is a timely topic. Over the last decade, high blood pressure has become more common among children, mostly due to the increasing rates of obesity in children. Up to 750,000 toddlers and school-aged children in the U.S. already have high blood pressure.

All kids should have their blood pressure routinely measured starting at age 3. Monitoring can start even earlier, according to guidelines published last year in the journal Pediatrics.

Those guidelines apply to children younger than 3 who were born prematurely or at a low birth weight. The recommendations also cover those with heart disease, babies who had a long hospital stay after birth, and those taking medications that affect blood pressure. It's normal for blood pressure to rise as kids' bodies mature, so doctors will use charts like "growth tables" to see if a child is on track.

High blood pressure is a big problem for adults. In the U.S., it strikes nearly one in three adults (though many of them don't know it), says the American Heart Association. High blood pressure is called the "silent killer," since it can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other serious health problems.

With that in mind, Boston University researchers set out to see if diet could help control children's blood pressure. The study was partially funded by a grant from Dairy Management Inc., a WebMD sponsor.

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