Elevated blood pressure increasing among children, adolescents

July 15, 2013, American Heart Association

The risk of elevated blood pressure among children and adolescents rose 27 percent during a thirteen-year period, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

Higher body mass, larger and eating excess sodium may be the reasons for the elevated blood pressure readings, researchers said.

High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease and —accounting for about 350,000 a year in the United States.

"High blood pressure is dangerous in part because many people don't know they have it," said Bernard Rosner, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. "It's a very sneaky thing. Blood pressure has to be measured regularly to keep on top of it."

In 20 and older, blood pressure should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg. However, among children and teens blood pressure norms vary according to age, sex and height.

While the researchers noted "elevated" readings, the children could not be called hypertensive because must be high three times in a row for an official diagnosis.

Researchers 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 accounted for differences between the two groups in age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass, waistline and sodium intake.

Researchers found:

  • Boys were more likely to have elevated blood pressure, but the rate increased more markedly in girls from the first study to the second.
  • More children were overweight in the second study, and both sexes, especially girls, had 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.
  • In both studies, children with the greatest sodium intake were 36 percent more likely than those with the lowest intake to have elevated blood pressure.

More than 80 percent of children in both studies had a daily sodium intake above 2,300 milligrams; however, fewer children in the later study had an intake above 3,450 milligrams.

"Everyone expects sodium intake will continue to go up," Rosner said. "It seems there's been a little bit of listening to dietary recommendations, but not a lot."

Americans eat an average 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily—more than twice the 1,500 or less that the American Heart Association recommends. Two-thirds of sodium intake is from store-bought foods and one-quarter from restaurant offerings.

Studies have linked excessive sodium in the diet to , and have suggested reducing in children's and adolescents' can lower average systolic (top number) blood pressure by 1.2 mm Hg and average diastolic (bottom number) pressure 1.3 mm Hg.

Explore further: Officials: US kids eat too much salt

Related Stories

Officials: US kids eat too much salt

September 17, 2012
(AP)—American children eat as much salt as adults—about 1,000 milligrams too much, or the same amount as in just one McDonald's Big Mac hamburger. Extra salt is linked with higher blood pressure, even in kids, but government ...

The effect of body mass index on blood pressure varies by race among children

September 21, 2012
Obesity in black children more severely impacts blood pressure than in white children who are equally overweight, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific ...

Reducing salt and increasing potassium will have major global health benefits

April 4, 2013
Cutting down on salt and, at the same time, increasing levels of potassium in our diet will have major health and cost benefits across the world, according to studies published in BMJ today.

Studies support population-based efforts to lower excessive dietary sodium intakes

May 14, 2013
Recent studies that examine links between sodium consumption and health outcomes support recommendations to lower sodium intake from the very high levels some Americans consume now, but evidence from these studies does not ...

Adults worldwide eat almost double daily AHA recommended amount of sodium

March 21, 2013
Seventy-five percent of the world's population consumes nearly twice the daily recommended amount of sodium (salt), according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism ...

Too much salt may damage blood vessels, lead to high blood pressure

June 18, 2012
Eating a high-salt diet for several years may damage blood vessels — increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure, according to research reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. People ...

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.