Kentucky one of top states for childhood obesity
By Molly Burchett
Kentucky Health News
A new study shows that being obese in childhood may quadruple the risk of having high blood pressure risk as an adult, highlighting the need for Kentucky to curb its high rate of childhood obesity.
Eighteen percent of Kentucky high schoolers are obese, tying Mississippi for the highest percentage among the states, says a report by Kentucky’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity. In the age range of 10 to 17, Kentucky trails several other states but remains a national leader.
One in three U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese, meaning their body mass index is at least the 85th percentile or at least the 95th percentile for their age and gender, respectively, says the American Heart Association. And, even more children are at-risk of becoming obese adults by the year 2030, says new report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This study adds to concern about the long-term impact of childhood obesity by linking it with increased risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure, if left untreated, can damage the heart and coronary arteries that can ultimately lead to a heart attack, heart disease or congestive heart failure, says the AHA.
The findings, which were presented at the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2013, are also part of the growing body of evidence that heart disease may start in childhood, said Dr. Sara E. Watson, study author and a pediatric endocrinology fellow at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University in Indianapolis.
Study researchers tracked the growth and blood pressure of 1,117 healthy adolescents from Indianapolis for 27 years, starting in 1986, finding that 6 percent of normal weight children and 26 percent of obese children had high blood pressure as adults.
“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,” Watson said. “Interventions to prevent and treat obesity will play an important role in decreasing the significant burden of high blood pressure in adulthood.”
Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.