Hypertension in Childhood a Harbinger for Heart Disease

High blood pressure increases risk of hardened arteries in adulthood

WEDNESDAY, March 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Children with high blood pressure are more likely to have hardened arteries when they reach middle age, says a Tulane University study.

Researchers found that the higher systolic blood pressure children have, the more likely they'll have hardened arteries when they're in their late 30s and 40s. The finding shows the importance of checking children's blood pressure, according to study author Shegnxu Li.

He and his colleagues analyzed data obtained every three to four years from Bogalusa Heart Study participants between 1973 and 2001. The Bogalusa Heart Study is the longest running, biracial, community-based study of heart disease risk factors that begin in childhood. Bogalusa is in Louisiana.

The study also found that, over the years, cigarette smoking and levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and triglycerides also were predictive of hardened arteries early in adulthood. But systolic blood pressure in childhood was the strongest predictor.

The study appears in the March issue of Hypertension.

"The changes in our cardiovascular system that lead to heart disease begin very silently and slowly," cardiologist and Bogalusa Heart Study founder Dr. Gerald Berenson says in a prepared statement.

"Our research is showing that these changes may begin even earlier than we had thought, which means we have the opportunity to start preventing heart disease beginning in childhood," Berenson says.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about hypertension.

SOURCE: Tulane University, news release, March 2004
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