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High Blood Pressure Risk Looms for Teen Boys

Boys Face Higher Hypertension Risk in Adulthood, Study Finds
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By Katrina Woznicki
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 15, 2010 -- Adolescent boys with normal blood pressure are three to four times more likely than girls to develop high blood pressure, a large study has found.

An international team of researchers analyzed data on 23,191 males and 3,789 females and followed them from age 17 to 42. The participants had periodic readings of blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on height and weight. During the long-term follow-up period, 14% of the group developed high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

The study also showed how even normal BMI and blood pressure readings in teen boys predicted a greater risk for high blood pressure in adulthood.

Other study findings:

  • During a maximum of 17 years of follow-up, men were four times more likely than women to develop high blood pressure.
  • For teenage boys in the upper range of a normal weight and with a systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) of 110 or above, the risk of high blood pressure increased at 1% per year.
  • For boys and girls, BMI at age 17 was strongly associated with future risk of high blood pressure, even after adjusting for blood pressure. However, for boys, the risk of developing high blood pressure held throughout the entire BMI range, including what is considered a normal weight range (BMI of 18 to 25), and the association between BMI and blood pressure was particularly strong for boys.
  • For girls, only those who were considered clinically obese, meaning they had a BMI of 30 or higher, had a significantly increased risk of high blood pressure. The researchers said the sex hormone estrogen may protect against high blood pressure.
  • Blood pressure values were higher among teenage boys than girls, despite a lower mean BMI. Blood pressure readings that fell within the low-normal range were two times more prevalent among girls than boys.

Blood Pressure and Adolescence

The findings are published in the latest issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association. The participants were part of the Metabolic Lifestyle and Nutrition Assessment in Young Adults (MELANY) study, conducted at the Israel Defense Forces Staff Periodic Examination Center.

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