It's widely understood that obesity is often linked to high blood pressure. And BP is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, as well as kidney problems, and it increases the risk of Type-2 diabetes and metabolic derangements. Now, more bad news: this is also true for children and adolescents, as well as for adults. Unfortunately, the longer the BP is elevated, the more likely it will have a negative impact on health. In a three-year study, Dr. Emily D. Parker of the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, Bloomington, Minn. and colleagues, utilized data from three health systems in California, Colorado and Minnesota. They tracked over 100,000 children and adolescents (ages 3-17 years) between 2007 and 2011. Obesity was defined for these youngsters as having a BMI between the 95th and 98th percentile for their age and gender; if they were in the 99th percentile they were considered severely obese. Younger children (3 to 11 years old) who started out overweight, but then progressed to frank obesity, had more than twice the risk of developing high BP. Older participants 12 to 17 years old saw their risks tripled. Kids who remained obese for the three-year study doubled their risk of elevated BP, while those who remained severely obese had a four-fold elevated risk. Blood pressure can normalize when obese children lose weight, and this also reduces the risk of the ills that typically accompany high blood pressure. The study thus emphasizes the importance of preventing and treating obesity in the young.
Obesity Raises Blood Pressure, Even in Kids
By Ruth Kava
Senior Nutrition Fellow
Dr. Ruth Kava has been associated with the American Council on Science and Health for over a decade first as Director of Nutrition, and more recently as Senior Fellow in Nutrition. In connection with ACSH, she has supervised numerous publications on nutrition-related issues, participated in a variety of television and radio programs (e.g. on CNN and NPR) and published letters and opinion pieces in the San Diego Times-Union, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and a variety of other media outlets. Dr. Kava received an MS and PhD from Columbia University in New York City. She is also a Registered Dietitian, having completed an internship at the New York Hospital (now the Weil-Cornell Hospital). Her research interests include obesity, type 2 diabetes and pregnancy, and she has published on these topics in several journals, including Diabetes, the Journal of Nutrition, and Obesity Facts.