Hypertension is increasing among children and adolescents according to a new report

A new study by the American Heart Association (AHA) says that over the last 13 years, there has been a 27 percent rise in the incidence of high blood pressure among children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 17. The study also showed an increase in child obesity and cholesterol.

The growing health threat to young people is blamed largely on changes in eating habits, processed or junk foods, and most significantly a salt (sodium) intake of more than 2,300 milligrams ― 80 percent above the 1,500mg daily maximum recommended by the AHA.

Researchers examined the records of two National health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of more than 11,500 children between the ages of 8 and 17, from 1988 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2008. Their analysis showed for the first time a clear correlation between high salt intake and a risk for higher blood pressure levels.

Bernard Rosner, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., said it is expected that sodium intake will continue to go up as “it seems there’s been a little bit of listening to dietary recommendations, but not a lot.”

The concern isn’t just the high blood pressure. Study co-author Dr. Bonita Falkner, professor of medicine and pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, points out that a good portion of children with confirmed hypertension “already have enlargement of the heart; they may have some albumin in the urine suggesting they have kidney strain; they are beginning to show they have thickening in carotid artery and a stiffening of aorta. The implication is that the blood pressure level is causing some stress or injury to the cardiovascular system.”

Some doctors also say children are getting these ailments due to increased sedentary behavior ― many children not only eat junk food, but spend a great deal of time watching TV or playing with electronic gadgets instead of getting physical exercise.

Falkner said he hopes the study will help people realize the negative impact sodium can have on blood pressure levels.


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