Blood pressure among children and teen-agers increased during the 1990s, placing them at greater risk as adults for hypertension and its associated ills of heart and kidney diseases, a new study says.
The study, which attributes the increased blood pressure partly to excess weight in childhood, is the latest indictment of lifestyles that have produced a less active and more overweight society.
While the article's lead author, epidemiologist Paul Muntner of Tulane University, characterized the study as a "wake-up call" for parents and pediatricians, some physicians reacted with greater alarm.
"The implications of this are enormous," said Dr. Michael Artman, director of pediatric cardiology at New York University School of Medicine. "Even though these blood pressure increases are fairly small, we know that over a lifetime that translates into a markedly increased risk of all kinds of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
"If you think about the impact this will have on loss of work, loss of life, loss of productivity and further burdening the health system with more people with heart disease and disability and stroke, it's frightening."
The study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Assocation, reviewed data from nationally representative samples of thousands of children ages 8 to 17.
It found increases in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure between the surveys from 1988 to 1994 and those from 1999 to 2000.
"We saw the increase among boys and girls, among whites, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans," said Munter.
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