-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight or obese children
are nearly three times as likely to have high blood pressure as
kids who are a normal weight, according to a new study from the
American Heart Association.
The increased risk applies to children of all ages, researchers
said. Their advice: Parents and doctors should help children lose
excess weight now to prevent high blood pressure from affecting
them as adults.
In conducting the study, researchers followed 1,111 healthy
Indiana school children, whose average age was 10, for 4.5 years.
They found that when the children became overweight (having a body
mass index, or BMI, at or above the 85th percentile), the amount of
fat under their skin and surrounding their major organs, known as
adiposity, harmed their health.
The study, published Oct. 3 in the journal
Hypertension, revealed when the kids reached the overweight or obese category, the adiposity effect on their blood pressure was more than four times that of normal-weight children.
"Higher blood pressure in childhood sets the stage for high blood pressure in adulthood," said study lead author Wanzhu Tu, a biostatistics professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, in a Heart Association news release. "Targeted interventions are needed for these children. Even small decreases in BMI could yield major health benefits."
The researchers found 14 percent of the blood pressure
measurements from overweight or obese children were at
prehypertensive or hypertensive levels, compared with 5 percent of
normal weight children. They also noted that blood levels of a
hormone found in fat tissue, called leptin, and heart rate had a
similar pattern as blood pressure.
The study authors deduced this hormone could play a role in
obesity-induced blood pressure elevation, which could result in
over- or underestimating the adiposity effect in certain children.
They said more research is needed to determine what triggers
hypertension when there is an increase in BMI and whether other
factors, such as leptin or insulin, may play a role.
"If [doctors] see a dramatic weight gain in a child who already is overweight, they need to intervene with behavioral measures, such as dietary changes and increased physical activity, to improve overall health and minimize cardiovascular risk," concluded Tu.
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