Overweight children have increased blood pressure risk, study finds

October 18, 2011

Children who are overweight or obese have 3 times as much risk of high blood pressure as children of normal weight have, reported a study published recently in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Children who are overweight or obese are at triple the risk faced by children of normal weight when it comes to blood pressure risk, reported a study published recently in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers at the Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Ind., examined 1,111 healthy Indiana schoolchildren over a period of 4.5 years. They found that when the children’s body mass index (BMI) reached or passed the 85th percentile - the beginning of the overweight category - the effect of adiposity (fat under the skin and surrounding major organs) on blood pressure was more than 4 times that for children of normal weight.

Among the study participants, 14% of overweight/obese children had blood pressure measurements in prehypertensive or hypertensive levels, compared to 5% of children of normal weight.

“Higher blood pressure in childhood sets the stage for high blood pressure in adulthood,” said Wanzhu Tu, PhD, lead author of the study and professor of biostatistics at the IU School of Medicine. “Targeted interventions are needed for these children. Even small decreases in BMI could yield major health benefits.”

Future study may determine how the increase in adiposity affects blood pressure and whether other factors such as leptin, insulin, or inflammatory cytokines may play a role. “The adiposity effects on blood pressure in children are not as simple as we thought,” Tu said.