According to a new survey of thousands of American youngsters, the prevalence of rising blood pressure is accelerating. When they compared numbers from a 1999-2008 survey to an earlier 1988-1994 survey among boys and girls aged 8 to 17, researchers found a 27 percent increase into an elevated category. For boys, the prevalence rose from 15.8 to 19.2 percent, and for girls, from 8.2 to 12.6 percent. A blood pressure reading more than 120/80 was regarded as elevated.
The researchers don’t know at this point if this also represents a rise in hypertension, that is, high blood pressure. A diagnosis of hypertension requires three consecutive elevated blood pressure readings. The great danger of hypertension is that it usually comes without any symptoms, and insidiously and silently creates destruction in the body’s arterial system over time.
My viewpoint: It is well accepted that blood pressure values in children represent an important measurable marker of cardiovascular risk later in life, so this news is of additional concern. One 2013 study, in fact, concluded that individuals with persistently elevated blood pressure from childhood to adulthood have increased risk of atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to the brain. That translates to increased risk for stroke.
What this means to you: If you have young children, the news here is another reminder about the importance of routine physical activity and eating healthy food. It goes along with all the previous bad news about rising obesity and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of cardiovascular problems later in life. These are related issues, and preventable issues. If you don’t do anything to straighten the lifestyle habits of your kids now, they will pay the price later. Prevention is always easier than cure!
Recommendation: Cut down on processed food. It’s full of weight gain-producing calories and hidden salt. See ”To Salt or Not to Salt?” for how much you need in your diet and what’s too much. Get your kids into recreational and sports activities. You have likely heard these recommendations before. They are obvious, but also critically necessary. And you know with kids, they tend to do what you do, so walking your talk is also very important.
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