"The prevalence of hypertension and obesity in children and adolescents is continuing to rise in most high and middle-income countries. Because adiposity is considered a driving force for cardiovascular disease, we examined whether elevated blood pressure was associated with body fat distribution in young people," said Professor Peter Schwandt from Ludwig Maximilians University, Germany.

 

The study included 22,051 children and adolescents from the PEP (Prevention Education Programme) Family Heart Study. The researchers measured blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), waist-to-height ratio (WHtR), skinfold thickness (SFT) and per cent body fat.

 

The diagnosis was based on several measurements on separate days and on repeated estimations with the child sitting quietly for five minutes. The researchers used an adequate cuff size for the arm in the correct position. The researchers found that compared with normal weight children and adolescents, the risk of prehypertension was significantly higher in youths with an elevated BMI.

 

The risk was 1.6 fold higher in overweight and 2.4 fold higher in obese boys, and 1.8 fold higher in overweight and 3.3 fold higher in obese girls. The significant associations with adverse fat patterning were even stronger for the risk of hypertension. In obese boys the odds ratio (OR) was 5.9 and in obese girls 4.3.

 

"We found that obese boys had a nearly six fold increased risk of hypertension compared to normal weight boys. In obese girls the risk was more than four times greater than their normal weight counterparts," Schwandt said. The prevalence of elevated blood pressure increased in boys and girls as body weight went up.

 

"Our study clearly shows that the fatter young people are, the greater their risk of prehypertension and hypertension. Any weight loss they can achieve will help reduce their risk," Schwandt said.

 

The study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Barcelona.

 

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