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Overweight children at doubled risk of high blood pressure

ANI | June 13, 2019 04:03 PM
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Washington D.C. (USA): Not only adults but even young children who are overweight are at risk of future heart attack and stroke. Overweight four-year-olds have a doubled risk of high blood pressure by the age of six, claims recent research.

The study was published in the journal 'European Journal of Preventive Cardiology'.

"The myth that excess weight in children has no consequences hampers the prevention and control of this health problem. Parents need to be more physically active with young children and provide a healthy diet. Women should shed extra pounds before becoming pregnant, avoid gaining excess weight during pregnancy, and quit smoking, as these are all established risk factors for childhood obesity," said Dr Inaki Galan, the study's author.

According to the World Health Organization, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and the prevalence has increased at an alarming rate. In 2016, more than 41 million children under the age of five were overweight.

The study examined the link between excess weight and high blood pressure in 1,796 four-year-olds who were followed up two years later. Blood pressure was measured at both time points, as was body mass index (BMI in kg/m2) and waist circumference.

Compared to children maintaining a healthy weight between ages four and six, those with new or persistent excess weight according to BMI had 2.49 and 2.54 higher risks of high blood pressure, respectively.

In those with new or persistent abdominal obesity, the risks for high blood pressure were 2.81 and 3.42 greater, respectively.

Children who lost weight did not have an increased risk of high blood pressure. The findings applied to all children regardless of sex or socioeconomic status.

"There is a chain of risk, whereby overweight and obesity lead to high blood pressure, which heightens the chance of cardiovascular disease if allowed to track into adulthood. But the results show that children who return to a normal weight also regain a healthy blood pressure," said Dr Galan.

The best way to maintain a healthy weight and lose excess kilos is to exercise and eat a healthy diet, said Dr Galan.

In addition to the central role of parents, the school curriculum needs to include three to four hours of physical activity every week. Teachers should supervise activities during breaks, while schools can offer games and sports after classes and provide nutritionally balanced meals and snacks.

Doctors should routinely assess BMI and waist circumference at early ages, added Dr Galan.

"Some paediatricians think the harms of overweight and obesity begin in adolescence but our study shows they are mistaken. We need to detect excess weight as soon as possible so the damaging impact on blood pressure can be reversed," he said. 

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