Obesity rates in the United States are higher than they ever have been. Nearly 1 in 3 adults is obese, and millions more are overweight. This is also becoming a problem for children. In fact, almost 1 in 3 children today is either overweight or obese.Kids who fall into this categoryare more likely to have other health problems, including high triglycerides, prediabetes and high blood pressure.
You might be surprised to know that children can have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. But, there is some good news: a recent study has found that programs aimed at fighting obesity by helping kids eat healthier and get more exercise might improve their blood pressure at the same time.
Do kids really get high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is not as common in kids as it is in adults—it affects about 3 in every 100 kids. Even though it’s not common, however, it can still cause problems. And, kids that have high blood pressure are more likely to have it as adults.
This is why it’s important to figure out which kids have high blood pressure, so that something can be done to fix it as soon as possible. In general, children should get their blood pressure checked by their healthcare provider at least once a year.
The researchers put together the results of 23 past studies that included almost 20,000 children. Combining past results into one large study helps make it easier for researchers to see patterns and find the answers they’re looking for.
They looked at 3 different types of weight loss programs to see if any of them helped lower blood pressure. The 3 types of programs each had a different focus, which were:
- Having kids eat a healthier diet
- Having kids get more physical activity
- Having kids eat a healthier diet andexercise more
All of the kids in the studies had their blood pressure checked before the program started, and then again 6 months or 1 year later. The researchers wanted to know which program helped lower blood pressure the most.
The study found that the programs that included efforts to help kids eat healthy and get more exercise helped lower blood pressure more than programs that only did one of those things.
What do these results mean for you and your kids?
The improvements in blood pressure were small, but they showed that the same healthy habits that help adults lower their blood pressure can also help children with the same issue.
This is important, because health experts think that kids who get health problems at an early age are more likely to suffer complications as they get older. For example, kids who have high blood pressure might be more likely to get heart disease as adults. So, making lifestyle changes as soon as possible can help get kids healthy today, which could make them healthier adults.
The foundation for a healthy diet in kids is mostly the same as for adults, and includes:
- Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamins and fiber
- Fresh, unprocesseddairy products for calcium and magnesium
- Enough protein to support the amount of physical activity they get each day
- Limited amounts of desserts, fast food, packaged snack foods like chips, and sugar-sweetened drinks like energy drinks and soda
The take home points
- Overweight and obesity are major health problems for kids today, just as they are for adults.
- Being overweight or obese can lead to other health problems in kids, such as high blood pressure.
- Kids should get their blood pressure checked by their healthcare provider at least once a year.
- Helping kids eat a healthy diet and get more exercise can help them lose weight and improve their blood pressure.
- If you have any questions about what you read here, talk to your child’s healthcare provider at your next office visit.