Hypertension Risks High For Obese, Overweight Kids
October 11, 2013

Hypertension Risks High For Obese, Overweight Kids

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new study from Kaiser Permanente Southern California reveals that high body weight in children and adolescents is strongly associated with the likelihood of hypertension.

Overweight youth are twice as likely as their normal-weight peers to have hypertension. Obesity adds another layer of complication: moderately obese youths have four times higher risk; and extremely obese children and adolescents are 10 times more likely to have hypertension. The research team also found 10 percent of extremely obese young people have hypertension and nearly half have occasional blood pressure measurements in the hypertensive range. This is more than found in previous research, which showed that between one and five percent of youth have hypertension.

"This study's findings suggest that pediatricians need to be particularly vigilant about screening overweight and obese children for hypertension because high blood pressure can be asymptomatic for many years," said Corinna Koebnick, PhD, researcher at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation.

The study collected data from electronic health records for nearly 250,000 children aged 6 to 17 years who were enrolled in Kaiser Permanente in Southern California between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009. The first four consecutive blood pressures measured routinely as a part of clinical care during the study period were used by the researchers.

"High blood pressure in children is a serious health condition that can lead to heart and kidney disease," said researcher David Cuan, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center. "While it is generally recommended that pediatricians measure blood pressure in children three years and older at every health care visit, this study shows the importance of screening overweight and obese young people in particular as they have an increased likelihood of hypertension."

The study findings, published in The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, suggest that the currently used classifications for overweight and obesity in children may be an effective tool for identifying children at high risk for hypertension. To conduct this study, the researchers used sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) combined with the World Health Organization (WHO) definitions for overweight and obesity in adults. They found that being above the threshold for overweight was an indicator for prehyptertension, while being above the threshold for obesity was an indicator for hypertension.

"This study highlights a great use of existing high-quality data for addressing important scientific questions, in this case, the challenge of screening asymptomatic children for hypertension," said Matthew F. Daley, MD, a pediatrician and a researcher at the Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado. "The findings of this study suggest that we should focus our limited resources on the children who need the most timely follow up."