Childhood Weight May Influence Adult High Blood Pressure Risk, Study Suggests

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The condition, known as hypertension, can lead to a heart attack, kidney damage, stroke and other cardiovascular problems as an adult. PHOTO BY KAROLINA GRABOWSKA/PEXELS

By Jim Leffman

High blood pressure begins in childhood, a new study claims.

The condition, known as hypertension, can lead to a heart attack, kidney damage, stroke and other cardiovascular problems as an adult.

However, researchers now believe the seeds for the raised blood pressure can begin when we are children.

And they say that managing a child’s weight can protect them from high blood pressure years later.

For men, the risk comes from being overweight at any age but for women, it is only from puberty onwards.

A paper presented at the the European Congress on Obesity in Venice claims that overweight teens are more likely to have high blood pressure than adults aged 50-64.

Study author Dr. Lina Lilja from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden said: “Our results suggest that preventing overweight and obesity beginning in childhood matters when it comes to achieving a healthy blood pressure in later life.

“Children and teenagers living with overweight or obesity might benefit from targeted initiatives and lifestyle modifications to reduce the substantial disease burden associated with high blood pressure in later life from diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney damage.”

High blood pressure is the main cause of these conditions and is one of the most preventable and treatable causes of premature deaths worldwide.

Modifiable risk factors include unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years are living with hypertension around the world.

A high BMI in adults is strongly associated with increased blood pressure and hypertension but the effect of high BMI during childhood and puberty on blood pressure in midlife is unknown.

A paper presented at the the European Congress on Obesity in Venice claims that overweight teens are more likely to have high blood pressure than adults aged 50-64. PHOTO BY CDC/UNSPLASH 

Researchers analysed data on 1,683 individuals, 858 men and 825 women, born between 1948 and 1968 who were involved in two population-based cohorts.

The team examined the association between BMI during development and systolic and diastolic blood pressure in midlife (50-64 years of age).

The researchers used standard deviation, a commonly used statistical tool that shows what is within a normal range compared to the average.

In analyses including both childhood BMI and the pubertal BMI changes results showed that for men, an increase of one BMI unit from the average BMI in childhood (BMI 15.6kg/m2) was associated with a 1.30 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure and a 0.75 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure, independent of each other.

Similarly, a one BMI unit increase from the average pubertal BMI (equivalent to an average pubertal BMI change of 5.4kg/m2) in men was associated with a 1.03 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure and a 0.53 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure in middle age, independent of each other.

In women, a one BMI unit increase in pubertal BMI was associated with a 0.96 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure and a 0.77 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure in middle age, irrespective of childhood BMI.

In contrast, childhood BMI was not linked with systolic or diastolic blood pressure in midlife, irrespective of the pubertal BMI change.

Co-author Dr Jenny Kindblom from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden said:
“Although the differences in blood pressure are not very large if blood pressure is slightly elevated over many years, it can damage blood vessels and lead to cardiovascular and kidney disease.

“Our findings indicate that high blood pressure may originate in early life.

“Excessive fat mass induces chronic low-grade inflammation and endothelial dysfunction, impaired functioning of the lining of the blood vessels, already in childhood.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years are living with hypertension around the world. PHOTO BY JAIR LAZARO/UNSPLASH 

“Higher amounts of visceral abdominal fat increase the risk of developing hypertension in adults.

“And we have previously shown that a large pubertal BMI change in men is associated with visceral obesity, fat around the internal organs, at a young adult age.

“So enlarged visceral fat mass might, in individuals with a high BMI increase during puberty, be a possible mechanism contributing to higher blood pressure.”

She added: “This study is important given the rising tide of obesity among children and teens.

“It is vital that we turn the focus from high blood pressure in adults to include people in younger age groups.”

The researchers said that the results are from observational findings so more studies need to be carried out before they can find the cause.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker