Hypertension screening urged for obese children

Extremely obese youth are 10 times more likely to develop hypertension compared with their normal-weight peers, according to data recently published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

“This study’s findings suggest that pediatricians need to be particularly vigilant about screening overweight and obese children for hypertension because high blood pressure can be asymptomatic for many years,” Corinna Koebnick, PhD, researcher at Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s Department of Research and Evaluation, said in a press release.

Corinna Koebnick, PhD 

Corinna Koebnick

Koebnick and colleagues sought to develop a BMI threshold as a marker for pediatric patients with an increased risk for hypertension by examining children aged 6 to 17 years (n=237,248) already enrolled in an integrated prepaid health plan in 2007 to 2009.

“Extremely obese youth are 10 times, moderately obese youth four times, and overweight youth are twice as likely to have hypertension as their normal-weight counterparts,” the researchers wrote.

According to study data, the children were categorized based on the following:

  • Underweight (BMI-for-age <5th percentile);
  • Normal weight (BMI-for-age ≥5th to <85th percentile);
  • Overweight (BMI-for-age ≥85th to <95th percentile or BMI ≥25 to <30);
  • Moderately obese (BMI-for-age ≥95th to <1.2×95th percentile or a BMI ≥30 to <35); and
  • Extremely obese (BMI-for-age ≥1.2×95th percentile or a BMI ≥35).

The prevalence of hypertension was 3.8% in moderately obese and 9.2% in extremely obese children compared with 0.9% in children considered to be at normal weight, according to data from the cross-sectional study.

After adjustments, data indicate the prevalence of hypertension was: 1 (reference) for children in the normal-weight group; 2.27 (95% CI, 2.08-2.47) in the overweight group; 4.43 (95% CI, 4.1-4.79) in the moderately obese group; and 10.76 (95% CI, 9.99-11.59) in the extremely obese group.

Disclosure: Koebnick reports research funding by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders and Kaiser Permanente Direct Community Benefit Funds. All other researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.