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Obese Children have an increased risk of Hypertension

Update Date: Sep 01, 2014 09:22 AM EDT

Obesity is a disease that occurs when people's body mass index (BMI), which factors in weight in relation to height) reaches or surpasses 30. The disease increases people's risk of developing other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In a new study, researchers focused on obesity in young people and found that their risk of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, ranges from four to six times higher in comparison to youth with normal weights.

In this study, the research team examined data on 22,051 people taken from the Prevention Education Program (PEP) Family Heart Study. The program recorded each individual's blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference (WC), waist-to-height ratio (WHtR), skinfold thickness (SFT) and percent body fat (%BF). For blood pressure, the team used an adequate cuff size and measured both prehypertension and hypertension. A prehypertension reading fell between the 90th and 95th percentile of the blood pressure curve in young people. A hypertension reading was defined as a reading that was higher than the 95th percentile.

"The prevalence of hypertension and obesity in children and adolescents is continuing to rise in most high and middle-income countries. Because adiposity is considered a driving force for cardiovascular disease, we examined whether elevated blood pressure was associated with body fat distribution in young people," said professor Peter Schwandt from Germany according to the press release. "These measures are simple, inexpensive, risk free and can be used in offices, schools and at home. However, they must be performed correctly and age and gender specific cut-off values have to be used in growing children and adolescents."

Overall, the researchers found that children and adolescents with a higher BMI had a higher risk of prehypertension in comparison to children and adolescents who had a normal BMI. For overweight and obese boys, the risk of prehypertension increased by 1.6 and 2.4 times respectively. For overweight and obese girls, the risks increased by 1.8 and 3.3 times respectively.

When the team looked at the participants' risk of hypertension, they found that obese boys and girls had a 5.9 and 4.3 fold-increased risk respectively in comparison to the risk of hypertension in boys and girls with normal BMI.

"Our study clearly shows that the fatter young people are, the greater their risk of prehypertension and hypertension. Any weight loss they can achieve will help reduce their risk," Professor Schwandt said. "General and abdominal adiposity, estimated using simple and inexpensive methods, are already significantly associated with prehypertension and hypertension in children and adolescents. This is of great importance because of the ongoing rise in the prevalence of hypertension and overweight/obesity in young people and the tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood."

The study's findings were presented at the ESC Congress.

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