One in seven American teenagers have high blood pressure, a CDC report released on Thursday revealed.
Prior to new guidelines being released last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which lowered the threshold for hypertension, about 500,000 children were classified as having hypertension.
But under the new guidelines, an additional 800,000 US children were reclassified with the condition, raising the total number to 1.3 million.
There are several theories about why more and more teens are being diagnosed with high blood pressure – among them the obesity epidemic, fast-growing and affecting almost 21 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The higher number, or systolic pressure, is the force that blood is being pumped by your heart around your body.
The lower number, or diastolic pressure, is how much pressure is in the arteries in between heart beats. Both are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
However, when it comes to children, doctors don’t just look at the reading but have to also consider a child’s age, sex and height.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is always high.
It is known as a ‘silent killer’ because most Americans with the condition do not know they have it.
Under the new guidelines, blood pressure tables were updated based just on normal-weight children.
Previous tables which included blood pressure measurements for overweight or obese children – likely increasing overall blood pressure levels.
For the report, researchers analyzed data from more than 12,000 kids between ages 12 and 19 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
They found that the prevalence of hypertension between 2001 and 2016 decreased using both the former guidelines, from 3.2 to 1.5 percent, and the new guidelines, from 7.7 percent to 4.2 percent.
But, with a lower threshold in place, the team saw a net increase with 795,000 US children being reclassified as having hypertension.
The greatest share of children who made up the reclassified population were older, male and obese.
Those between ages 18 to 19 made up about half of the net increase and two-thirds of the increase were male.
While only two percent of kids who were a healthy weight had high-blood pressure, it spiked to a whopping 14 percent among obese children.
Although there was an increase in hypertension cases under the new guidelines, there was a decrease in kids being classified as having elevated blood pressure, or prehypertension, from about 12 percent to 10 percent.
Having high blood pressure at such as young age can increase the risk of several health complications including heart disease, kidney disease and stroke, as well as elevating the risk for hypertension in adulthood.
The report recommends that lifestyle interventions be implemented for children with hypertension including increasing their physical activity and eating healthier, such as following the DASH diet.
The DASH diet, short for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, encourages eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
It discourages eating foods that are high in saturated fat such as red meats and full-fat dairy products.