– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Overweight four-year-olds have double the risk of developing high blood pressure by the age of six, according to new research.
Researchers have conducted a study in which they measured blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference in over 1,790 children when they were aged four and again two years later.
Compared to children with a healthy weight between ages four and six, those with new or persistent excess weight had 2.49 and 2.54 higher risks of high blood pressure, respectively. Children who lost the excess weight did not have an increased risk of high blood pressure.
“There is a chain of risk, whereby overweight and obesity lead to high blood pressure, which heightens the chance of cardiovascular disease if allowed to track into adulthood,” said study author Dr. Inaki Galan, who is based at the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid, Spain. “But the results show that children who return to a normal weight also regain a healthy blood pressure.
“Some paediatricians think the harms of overweight and obesity begin in adolescence, but our study shows they are mistaken… We need to detect excess weight as soon as possible so the damaging impact on blood pressure can be reversed.”
Dr. Galan suggested doctors should routinely assess BMI and waist circumference in children at an early age, while overweight children should have their blood pressure measured. The best way for children to maintain a healthy weight or drop excess pounds is to exercise and have a balanced diet, and this should encouraged by parents and schools.
“The myth that excess weight in children has no consequences hampers the prevention and control of this health problem,” he said. “Parents need to be more physically active with young children and provide a healthy diet. Women should shed extra pounds before becoming pregnant, avoid gaining excess weight during pregnancy, and quit smoking, as these are all established risk factors for childhood obesity.”
Full results of the study were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.