(RxWiki News) When children are overweight their risk of high blood pressure increases to nearly three times higher than that of children of a normal weight.
But researchers suggest that even small decreases in body mass index could help significantly lower their hypertension risk.
"Feed your children healthy meals and encourage physical fitness."
Wanzhu Tu, lead study author and professor of biostatistics at Indiana University School of Medicine, said that higher blood pressure in childhood can set the stage for high blood pressure during adulthood. He suggested targeted interventions are needed to help overweight children.
Researchers followed 1,111 healthy school-age children with an average age of 10-years-old over a period of four and a half years. On average, participants underwent 8.2 assessments each totaling 9,102 semi-annual blood pressure and height/weight assessments to determine BMI. Those with BMI percentile values over 85 percent were considered overweight and those with BMI values over 95 percent were considered obese.
They found that when a child's body mass index reached or passed the 85th percentile, deemed the beginning of the overweight category, the effect of fat under the skin and surrounding organs on blood pressure was more than four times greater than in normal weight children. BMI percentiles adjust for age and gender so no absolute weight was used to classify children as overweight or obese.
They found that 14 percent of blood pressure measurements taken from obese or overweight children were at prehypertensive or hypertensive levels as compared to 5 percent in normal weight children.
The study did not determine what makes the blood pressure rise with an increase in BMI percentile. Additional studies may help determine how fat under the skin and around organs affects blood pressure and which other factors may play a role.
Tu encouraged doctors and patients to pay attention to children's weight. and report dramatic weight gain so that intervention such as dietary changes and increased physical activity can be implemented to reduce risks.
The research was recently published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.