Typically when we think about high blood pressure, we think about our grandparents. It’s a problem old people deal with, not us younger adults. But not only does it affect those that haven’t reached “elderly” status, it also includes kids — young kids. While researchers don’t know the exact effects high blood pressure will have on children, there’s some research pointing to the possibility of organ damage. If these kids continue to have high blood pressure into adulthood, the burden on their body will become even greater and greater.
According to a study in Hypertension, high blood pressure in kids has increased 27% in 13 years. Obesity, high BMI, and belly fat play a role in increasing blood pressure, but so does diet. The amount of sodium, or salt, you eat does affect your blood pressure. Researchers for the study looked at records of over 11,500 kids between the ages of 8 and 17 and were able to find a clear connection between how much salt they ate and their risk for having high blood pressure.
While the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day, children in the study were found to be eating more than 2,300 mg per day. This large intake of salt is likely to due to the availability and high consumption of processed foods, which tend to be higher in salt to increase their shelf life. Portions are also growing larger, which means even more salt intake.
Some of these kids with high salt intake and the resultant high blood pressure show signs of enlarged hearts, strain on the kidneys, and stiffening of the aorta, which can cause stress on the cardiovascular system. These are problems adults should be worrying about; not kids. If the blood pressure problems can’t be attributed to some other health condition, it’s time for a lifestyle change. That includes a low sodium diet. Since we’re dealing with kids, it’s likely that the most effective approach would be for the whole family to cut down on salt intake.