Children who are obese or overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure in adulthood, compared with children of a healthy weight, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2013.

Researchers analyzed the blood pressure and growth of 1,117 healthy adolescents over a 27-year period from 1986.

Of the participants, 68% were at a normal weight, 16% were overweight and 16% were obese.

At adulthood, 119 of the participants were diagnosed with high blood pressure. Of these, 6% were normal weight as children, 14% were overweight, while 26% were obese as children.

These results show that obesity during childhood may increase the risk of high blood pressure four-fold in adulthood, and children who are overweight may double their risk of high blood pressure as adults.

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Researchers say that children who are obese or overweight are more likely to develop high blood pressure in adulthood.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

Furthermore, in a CDC population-based sample of 5 to 17-year-olds, 70% of youths who were obese had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

However, a recent report from Medical News Today highlighted some positive statistics from the CDC, which showed that childhood obesity rates in the US decreased in 19 of 43 states and territories studied between 2008 and 2011.

Sara E. Watson, pediatric endocrinology fellow at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University and lead study author, says:

It is important that pediatricians counsel patients on the risk of high blood pressure associated with overweight and obesity, and stress that a healthy diet, including reducing salt intake and exercise, may help reduce this risk.

Interventions to prevent and treat obesity will play an important role in decreasing the significant burden of high blood pressure in adulthood.”

Additionally, the study showed that children who have one or more high blood pressure readings are three times more likely to develop the condition as adults.

After accounting for age, gender and weight, the researchers found that those who had at least one high blood pressure reading at childhood had almost a 10% higher risk of developing the condition in adulthood, compared with children who had consistently normal blood pressure readings.

“This study highlights the need for pediatricians to regularly check blood pressure and weight,” says Wanzhu Tu, professor of biostatistics at Indiana University School of Medicine and study author.

“An occasional increase in blood pressure does not justify treatment, but it does justify following these children more carefully.”

Other health problems have been linked to obesity as a child or adolescent. Medical News today recently reported that overweight teenagers who lose weight may be at higher risk of developing anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.