Researchers found that young people who are overweight are twice as likely as their normal-weight peers to have hypertension; moderately obese youths have four times higher risk; and extremely obese children and adolescents are 10 times more likely to have hypertension.

The study also found 10 per cent of youths who are extremely obese have hypertension and nearly half have occasional blood pressure measurements in the hypertensive range.

"This study's findings suggest that pediatricians need to be particularly vigilant about screening overweight and obese children for hypertension because high blood pressure can be asymptomatic for many years," said Corinna Koebnick, lead author and researcher at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation.

Researchers examined the electronic health records of nearly 250,000 children aged 6 to 17 years who were enrolled in Kaiser Permanente in Southern California between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009.

The study used the first four consecutive blood pressures measured routinely as a part of clinical care during the 36-month time period.

"High blood pressure in children is a serious health condition that can lead to heart and kidney disease," said researcher David Cuan, Department of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center.

"While it is generally recommended that pediatricians measure blood pressure in children three years and older at every health care visit, this study shows the importance of screening overweight and obese young people in particular as they have an increased likelihood of hypertension," Cuan said.

For the study, researchers used sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention combined with the World Health Organisation definitions for overweight and obesity in adults. Being above the threshold for overweight was an indicator for prehypertension, while being above the threshold for obesity was an indicator for hypertension.

The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Hypertension.


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