Overweight four-year-olds have double the risk of hypertension by age six years, according to new research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The longitudinal study included 1,796 children aged four years at baseline who were followed for two years. Blood pressure (BP), body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference were measured at baseline and after two years.
The data showed children with general or abdominal obesity at age four years had an average increase of 4-5 mmHg systolic and 2.5-3 mmHg diastolic BP.
Compared to children maintaining a healthy weight between ages four and six years, those with new or persistent excess weight had 2.49 and 2.54 higher risks of high BP, respectively. In those with new or persistent abdominal obesity, the risks for hypertension were 2.81 and 3.42 greater, respectively. Children who experienced remission to non-excess weight did not have an increased risk of hypertension.
“Some paediatricians think the harms of overweight and obesity begin in adolescence but our study shows they are mistaken,” said study author Dr Iñaki Galán of Carlos III Health Institute in Spain. “We need to detect excess weight as soon as possible so the damaging impact on blood pressure can be reversed.”