(CBS NEWS) -- American children may be in the midst of a blood pressure problem.
new study from the American Heart Association shows that over the past
13 years, children and adolescents have seen stark rises in their risk
for high blood pressure.
That could set them up for a lifetime of stroke, heart disease and kidney failure.
blood pressure is dangerous in part because many people don't know they
have it," study author Dr. Bernard Rosner, a professor of medicine at
Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., said in a statement. "It's a very sneaky thing."
blood pressure, or hypertension, is a problem in which blood pushes too
hard against a person's blood vessels, potentially causing damage to
the vessels and organs like the heart, according to WebMD. Risk factors for hypertension in children include obesity, sodium intake and family history.
dietary guidelines suggest people eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of
sodium per day, while the AHA recommends an even lower threshold of
1,500 daily milligrams.
The AHA estimates 97 percent of children
and teens eat too much salt, putting them at risk for high blood
pressure and eventual heart disease.
For the study, researchers
compared more than 3,200 kids between ages 8 and 17 who were part of a
nutritional survey from 1988 and 1994 and compared them to more than
8,300 kids who were surveyed from 1999 to 2008.
accounted for differences between the group that could affect the
results, such as race, gender, body mass index and daily sodium intake.
found children with the highest sodium intake were 36 percent more
likely to have elevated blood pressure than children with the lowest
Overall, more than 80 percent of children in both studies
had daily sodium intake exceeding 2,300 milligrams, but the number of
children with very high intake -- above 3,450 milligrams -- fell over
"It seems there's been a little bit of listening to dietary recommendations, but not a lot," Rosner commented.
were more likely to have elevated blood pressure levels than girls, but
the high blood pressure risk rate among girls increased from the first
survey to the second, the researchers found.
trends found were body mass index and waistlines increasing among both
sexes, especially girls, from the first survey to the second. Children
with the highest BMI measurements and largest waistlines were about
twice as likely to have elevated blood pressure than those with the
The study was published July 15 in the AHA's journal, Hypertension.
blood pressure in adults is normally less than 120/80 mm Hg. Among
children and teens, blood pressure could vary based on age, sex and
height, the AHA points out.
Rosner added that reducing excessive
sodium intake could lower blood pressure by about 1.2 mm HG for systolic
BP (top number) and diastolic (botton number) by 1.3 mm HG.
Last summer, a study found hospital visits for kids with high blood
pressure nearly doubled in a 10-year-period to 24,000 cases per year.
That increase lead to more than $3 billion in added treatment costs, CBS
Commenting on the new study, one expert said she has seen a rise in high blood pressure among her young patients.
alone I will see 10 to 15 [patients], mostly teenagers, that are
overweight with hypertension," said Dr. Ana Paredes, a pediatric
nephrologist at Miami Children's Hospital, told HealthDay.
"If you are drinking Gatorade while watching TV or working on the
computer, you're just intoxicating yourself with salt. If you are
drinking Gatorade while watching TV or working on the computer, you're
just intoxicating yourself with salt."