Overweight and obese kids face high risk of hypertension

Children with weight problems have another health risk to worry about: hypertension.

According to a new Kaiser Permanente Southern California study, high body weight in children and adolescents is strongly associated with the likelihood of high blood pressure. In fact, young people who are overweight are twice as likely as their peers to have the condition.

Early screening is key

Based on rising childhood obesity rates and evidence from earlier studies that suggests between 1 and 5 percent of youth have hypertension, pediatricians should be particularly vigilant about screening overweight children for high blood pressure, said Corinna Koebnick, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

"High blood pressure can be asymptomatic for many years," she warned.

The study, which examined the electronic health records of nearly 250,000 children aged 6 to 17, found that moderately obese kids have four times the risk of hypertension than their normal-weight peers, while extremely obese children have 10 times the risk. Researchers also found that 10 percent of extremely obese children have hypertension.

"High blood pressure in children is a serious health condition that can lead to heart and kidney disease," said researcher David Cuan, M.D., Department of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center.

Identifying high-risk kids

The researchers said that the current classifications for obesity in children, like the sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could be helpful in identifying kids who are at high risk for hypertension.

"This study highlights a great use of existing high-quality data for addressing important scientific questions, in this case, the challenge of screening asymptomatic children for hypertension," said Matthew F. Daley, M.D., a pediatrician and a researcher at the Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado. "The findings of this study suggest that we should focus our limited resources on the children who need the most timely follow up."

Source: Science Daily

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