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Kids' High Blood Pressure on the Rise

High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens Becoming More Common, Reversing a Lengthy Trend
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 11, 2007 -- Experts today warned that high blood pressure has become more common in U.S. kids and teens.

The finding is a call to action, says researcher Rebecca Din-Dzietham, MD, PhD, MPH, of Morehouse School of Medicine.

"Unless this upward trend in high blood pressure is reversed, we could be facing an explosion of new cardiovascular disease cases in young adults and adults. ... We need to act now," she says in a news release.

High blood pressure makes heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and other serious health conditions more likely. The fear is that if high blood pressure starts in childhood, those problems may start earlier in life.

High Blood Pressure in Children

Din-Dzietham and colleagues reviewed nearly 40 years of government data on high blood pressure (hypertension) and prehypertension in children and teens aged 8 to 17.

During that time, most kids and teens didn't have high blood pressure or borderline high blood pressure. But the trends tell a different story.

The children got their blood pressure, height, weight, and waist circumference checked.

From 1963 to 1988, high blood pressure and borderline high blood pressure became rarer among kids and teens. But after 1988, that trend reversed and has been climbing ever since.

For instance, from 1988 to 1994, 2.7% of kids and teens studied had high blood pressure and 7.7% had prehypertension.

From 1999 to 2002, the percentage of kids with high blood pressure had risen to 3.7% and the percentage with prehypertension had reached 10%.

Those increases followed about a decade after childhood obesity started becoming more common, note the researchers.

Abdominal obesity -- extra weight around the waist -- was particularly problematic when it came to blood pressure, but BMI (body mass index, which relates height to weight) also tied extra pounds to higher blood pressure.

The findings appear in today's online edition of the journal Circulation.

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