Research Says Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices Are Linked to High Blood Pressure in Teens and Kids

A consensus paper by heart health experts published today in European Heart Journal, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), has revealed that excess weight, inactivity, and diets high in salt and sugar account for about nine in ten of high blood pressure in adolescents and children. The document also recommended that families must get healthy together.

Parents' Role

The first author Professor Giovanni de Simone of the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, said, "Parents are significant agents of change in the promotion of children's health behaviors. Very often, high blood pressure and/or obesity coexist in the same family. But even when this is not the case, it is desirable that lifestyle modifications involve all family members."

Professor de Simone said, "Parents should monitor the amount of time their children spend watching TV or using smartphones and suggest active alternatives." He also said, "Recording weight, eating habits, and exercise over time -- but without becoming obsessive -- can help young people and their families to track progress towards their goals."

Recommending a "health-promoting reward system," Professor de Simone said, "Ideal incentives are those that increase social support and reinforce the value of targeted behaviors, such as a family bike ride or a walk with friends."

The document referred to childhood obesity and hypertension as "insidious siblings, " gradually becoming a serious health hazard. Professor de Simone said: "The rise in childhood hypertension is of great concern as it is associated with persistence of hypertension and other cardiovascular problems during adulthood."

Early Diagnosis is Critical

Early diagnosis of high blood pressure can be crucial and be managed with lifestyle and medications. Professor de Simone said: "Screening should be performed in the primary care setting at least yearly, regardless of symptoms. This is because hypertension in children, as in adults, is usually asymptomatic."

In the early stages of childhood hypertension, the focus should be on educational and behavioral changes. Drug use should be low and be increased only when necessary.

The Role of Public Health Agencies

The study's authors also called for public health agencies to prioritize the prevention and management of hypertension in children and adolescents. For example, some campaigns should be organized to increase awareness of the risks of high blood pressure in young people. They should also be aware of the positive impact of a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity, a nutritious diet low in salt and sugar, and being a non-smoking individual. The children on TV and social media should be limited and should not include the promotion of junk food or potentially harmful lifestyle habits like sipping a cola (unhealthy and sugar-laden) all the time.

Another Research

Another research has proven that increasing the number of PE lessons in the school timetable (about 10 hours a week) can also help improve children's blood pressure over time.


The consensus document was prepared by the ESC Council on Hypertension, European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging, European Association of Preventive Cardiology, Association of Cardiovascular Nursing & Allied Professions, Association for European Pediatric and Congenital Cardiology, and ESC Council for Cardiology Practice. 


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