Blood Pressure Increases Among Children Due to Rise in Obesity, Study Finds
The increase in obesity and physical inactivity among children and teenagers has caused their blood pressure to rise for the first time, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Washington Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 5/5). In the study, researchers from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of 1988-1994 and 1999-2000 (Rabin, Long Island Newsday, 5/5). The national surveys included 5,582 children ages eight to 17. According to the study, between 1988 and 2000, systolic blood pressure among those children increased by 1.4 millimeters of mercury to 106 from 104.6, and diastolic blood pressure increased by 3.3 millimeters to 61.7 from 58.4 (Washington Post, 5/5). The study found that blood pressure increased among children in all subgroups.
"One of the surprising results was how consistent the increase in blood pressure was," lead study author Paul Muntner, an assistant professor of epidemiology and medicine at Tulane, said, adding, "We saw the increase among boys and girls, among whites, African Americans and Mexican Americans" (Long Island Newsday, 5/5). He added, "For an individual patient, we don't consider these increases to be large. But at the population level, they're substantial" (Rackl, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/5). According to Muntner, the "strongest determinant of developing high blood pressure in adulthood is high blood pressure in childhood" (Washington Post, 5/5). He added, "These results suggest that in another 10 to 20 years we will be facing much higher rates of hypertension, heart disease and stroke as these children become adults" (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 5/5). Muntner said that in addition to increased body mass and decreased physical activity, higher caloric and salt consumption and lower fruit and vegetable consumption contributed to the increase in blood pressure among children (Long Island Newsday, 5/5). Jeffrey Cutler of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, who helped conduct the study, said, "One can be pretty sure that with the increasing role that fast food and convenience foods play in the diet that kids are being exposed to more salt" (Washington Post, 5/5). An abstract of the study is available online. CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports" on Tuesday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Muntner (Feig, "Wolf Blitzer Reports," CNN, 5/4). The complete transcript is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.