Although no specific causes of high blood pressure have been identified, the medical profession as a whole considers that excess weight, smoking, alcohol consumption, life-style and poor eating habits are all contributory factors. Smoking and alcohol can be ruled out as causes in children, in general. Thus, if a child is obese, it may safely be assumed that diet and life-style have caused high blood pressure to become a risk or to even develop. As a result, obese children have a greater risk of high blood pressure. Though population studies world wide have shown that most people suffering from high blood pressure are in the 50-60 years age range, childhood obesity figures have grown alarmingly and bring the dangers inherent in both obesity and high blood pressure itself.
A child whose parents are obese is ten times more likely to become obese. Eating habits are passed on and learned, as indeed are life-style choices such as exercise participation and leisure pursuits. A vicious circle is created and the dangers of high blood pressure developing in the obese child are surely a high risk factor. Having high blood pressure may not, in a child seem logical or apparent as symptoms do not always present, unless the pressure really is high. So an overweight, breathless child may seem to be that way as a result of obesity, while in fact, these may well be manifestations of symptoms of high blood pressure.
Because of excess weight, especially round the middle of the body, the risk of coronary heart disease increases, along with the risk of high blood pressure in the obese child. The risk of stroke and kidney disease also rises when high blood pressure occurs. One simple way to help an obese child is to alter the diet. If doing this is combined with just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week, then that obese child will soon begin to reap the health benefits of such quite minor changes. This will not just lower the risk of high blood pressure, but improve overall health, both physical and psychological. As obese children often feel ostracized, losing weight and feeling better about themselves can only improve all aspects of their lives, instilling more confidence and self-esteem.
To reduce the risk of high blood pressure in obese children, it is necessary to help lower the intake of salt, fats, sugar and sugary drinks. Simple changes such as smaller portions of these, along with an increase in fruit, vegetables, water and proteins, are the first steps to reducing weight and the risk of high blood pressure and possible coronary heart disease in the future.
The idea of going to the gym or pounding round the track or park might put a child off taking that 30 minutes of moderate exercise that needs to be done, alongside changes in eating habits. Instead, the whole family could benefit from a brisk walk, a cycle ride, a game of baseball, anything in fact that gets the child moving and having fun at the same time.
These proposed changes will result in a slow, steady reduction of weight, about one to two pounds a week, which is the best way to do it. When weight comes off slowly, it stays off. Gradually, for obese children, that greater risk of high blood pressure will diminish. As always, it is wise to see a doctor and follow professional advice, especially if a child had been found to have high blood pressure. But eating well and feeling better about oneself can only be good for any child suffering from obesity. One small step is the start on the road to health.