Having a few extra pounds increases children’s risk of developing high blood pressure, and it can cause heart damage that worsens with age.
- Children who are overweight – even slightly – are more likely to suffer from hypertension.
- Each BMI point gained per year increases the risk of childhood hypertension by 4%.
- However, a second study shows that having high blood pressure in adolescence leads to early heart damage. They can get worse in adulthood.
Hypertension is often equated with an adult disease. And, while the vast majority of patients are adults, children can also suffer from it. One of the factors that raises the blood pressure of the youngest would be the extra pounds. A new study, published in JAMA Network Openreveals that even modest above-average weight gain puts children at risk for high blood pressure.
A slight overweight in the child is enough to increase blood pressure
Researchers from Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit American health care system, took over the medical records of 801,019 young people aged 3 to 17, beneficiaries of the organization between 2008 and 2015. They studied the evolution of their Index Body Mass (BMI) over five years as well as their blood pressure. The scientists divided the participants into three groups: low, medium and high weight.
“Unlike adults, BMI levels in children and adolescents should be expressed relative to other people of the same age and gender”specify the authors in their communicated.
Studies show that young people who are in the upper range of average weight are 26% more likely to develop hypertension within 5 years compared to children with a BMI of 25. In addition, each BMI point gained per year increases the risk of childhood hypertension by 4%.
“Obesity may be the most significant risk factor for childhood hypertension. Parents should speak to their pediatrician to see if their child may be at risk for hypertension and for other preventable chronic medical conditions related to obesity”says the study’s lead author, Dr. Poornima Kunan, a pediatrician and researcher at Kaiser Permanente Manhattan Beach Medical Office.
High blood pressure is bad for teen hearts
The discovery of the Kaiser Permanente researchers is all the more disturbing if we take into account the work presented in the Journal of Pediatrics on March 2. Scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Eastern Finland have shown that uncontrolled hypertension in adolescence leads to early heart damage. The latter are, moreover, likely to be exacerbated during the transition to adulthood.
The Anglo-Finnish team came to this conclusion after monitoring 1,856 adolescents. The volunteers were 17 years old at the start of the trial and were followed for seven years. Premature cardiac lesions were observed in both sexes, but they differed.
In men, high systolic blood pressure and hypertension were associated with an approximately 10% to 30% increased risk of damage to heart function (left ventricular diastolic dysfunction…). In contrast, there was no risk of structural damage to the heart (left ventricular hypertrophy, thick wall…).
Women, on the other hand, had a 60-217% increased risk of heart structural damage and a 35-65% increased risk of heart function damage.
“This new evidence of the deleterious effect of high blood pressure and primary hypertension on the hearts of the young population is alarming”says Dr. Andrew Agbaje, physician and clinical epidemiologist at the University of Eastern Finland in a press release from his establishment. With his colleagues, he advocates the establishment of hypertension screening in adolescents to reduce complications in adulthood.