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More Kids May Be at Risk for High Blood Pressure

Study looked at rise in body fat, waist size and salt intake over 13-year period

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For adults, normal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120/80 mm Hg. Among children and teens, however, normal blood pressure varies by age, sex and height, the researchers noted.

In calculating risk for high blood pressure, they took into account differences between the two groups of kids in terms of age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass, waistline size and salt intake.

Highlights of the study, published online July 15 and in the August print issue of the journal Hypertension, included the following:

  • Although boys were more likely to have elevated blood pressure, the rate increased more rapidly in girls.
  • Over time, more children were overweight and had bigger waistlines -- especially girls.
  • Children with the biggest waistlines were about twice as likely to have high blood pressure, compared to the children with the thinnest waistlines.
  • Black children had a 28 percent higher risk of high blood pressure than white children.
  • Children who consumed the most salt were 36 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, compared to children who consumed the least.
  • In both studies, more than 80 percent of children had a daily salt intake of more than 2,300 mg. However, fewer children in the later study had an intake above 3,450 mg.

"Everyone expects sodium intake will continue to go up," lead researcher Bernard Rosner, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. "It seems there's been a little bit of listening to dietary recommendations, but not a lot."

"High blood pressure is dangerous in part because many people don't know they have it," he added. "It's a very sneaky thing. Blood pressure has to be measured regularly to keep on top of it."

High blood pressure accounts for some 350,000 preventable deaths each year in the United States, the researchers noted.

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