HealthDay News — The risk of elevated BP increased 27% among children and adolescents during a 13-year period, according to a study published in the journal Hypertension.

“High blood pressure is dangerous in part because many people don’t know they have it,” said Bernard Rosner, PhD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues in their report.

Hypertension can cause a variety of conditions, including heart failure, stroke, transient ischemic attack, and kidney failure, accounting for 350,000 American deaths annually, according to the American Heart Association.

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While hypertension is often associated with adults, the obesity epidemic in American children caused the researchers to wonder if there was an associated spike in BPs.

The study assessed the prevalence of elevated BP using data from a sample of 3,248 children aged 8 to 17 years old who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III (1988 to 1994) and 8,388 children who participated in continuous NHANES (1999 to 2008).

Elevated BP was defined as systolic BP or diastolic BP in 90th percentile or higher or systolic BP/diastolic BP of at least 120/80 mm Hg.

The researchers found that there was an increase in the prevalence of elevated BP between the two periods. The prevalence amongst boys rose from 15.8% to 19.2%. Prevalence amongst girls rose from 8.2% to 12.6%. Thus, boys are more likely to have elevated BP, but girls saw a sharper increase over the interval.

Significant correlations were seen for the prevalence of elevated BP with other variables. Children in the highest BMI quartile were twice as likely to have elevated BP compared with those in the lowest BMI quartile. The same trend was seen when evaluating waist circumference. Children with the highest levels of daily intake (at least 3,450 mg/day) were 36% more likely to have elevated BP than those consuming the least amount.

The AHA recommends a daily sodium intake of 1,500 mg, but the average American consumes 3,400 mg/day.

 “It seems there’s been a little bit of listening to dietary recommendations, but not a lot,” the researchers commented.

In general, average BMI and waist circumferences also rose over the 13-year period.

Black children were 28% more likely to have elevated BP than white children.

The researchers encouraged parents to provide healthier lifestyles for their children if necessary by making dietary adjustments and engaging them in more physical exercise.

They also hoped parents would be more cognizant of the possibility of high BP in children.

 “It’s a very sneaky thing. Blood pressure has to be measured regularly to keep on top of it,” Rosner and his coauthors wrote.


  1. Rosner B et al. Hypertension 2013;doi: 10.1161/​HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.00831 .