Traditionally, aging is considered to increase your risk of high blood pressure. But now, researchers have found that elevated blood pressure is striking where it is least expected.
The high blood pressure danger is now rampant among children and adolescents. In a 13-year period, researchers find, the incidence of hypertension in this group climbed 27 percent. The fact that kids are heavier, have larger waistlines and are eating junk food filled with sodium may be reasons for the elevated blood pressure readings, the scientists say.
“High blood pressure is dangerous in part because many people don’t know they have it,” warns Bernard Rosner, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It’s a very sneaky thing. Blood pressure has to be measured regularly to keep on top of it.”
High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. It is a factor in about 350,000 deaths a year in the U.S., almost 1,000 a day.
In this study, the scientists compared more than 3,200 children ages 8-17 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III in 1988-1994 to more than 8,300 in NHANES in 1999-2008. They found:
- Boys were more likely to have elevated blood pressure, but girls were catching up.
- More and more children are becoming overweight and have bigger waistlines.
- Children whose body mass or waistline measurements were in the top 25 percent for their age group were about twice as likely to have elevated blood pressure as children with measurements in the bottom 25 percent.
- African-American children had a 28 percent higher risk of elevated blood pressure than non-Hispanic white children.
- Children with the greatest sodium intake were 36 percent more likely than those with the lowest intake to have elevated blood pressure.