The study, said to be the most comprehensive direct measures health survey ever carried out in Canada, is the first examination of hypertension in Canadian children since 1978. It looked at data from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) for 6- to 19-year-olds. The researchers found 0.8 percent of children and adolescents had hypertension, while 2.1 percent had borderline levels.
In comparison, about 20 percent of Canadian adults have the condition, which is associated globally with 7.6 million premature deaths a year, and 92 million disability-adjusted life years, the government agency said. The study also found that the risk of developing the condition increased with weight.
“Echoing the results of other studies, the study found that mean systolic blood pressure was significantly higher among boys aged 12 to 19 and girls aged 6 to 11 who were overweight or obese,” Statistics Canada said.
Although the measured prevalence of hypertension in young people was actually lower than previously thought, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at the Centre for Obesity Research and Education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Dr. Ian Janssen still expressed concern at the results.
“It’s concerning when you see any type of risk factor developing at a young age. When you tend to have high blood pressure as a child, that tends to follow you as you become an adult,” he was quoted as saying in the Globe and Mail.
Meanwhile, US-based Dr. M. Isabel Roberti, director of pediatric nephrology and transplantation at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey, said she has seen an increase in the number of children with high blood pressure unrelated to any preexisting medical condition or disease.
Despite food industry efforts to reduce sodium content in foods, she said high sodium intake is difficult for children and adolescents to avoid, with an estimated 75 percent of sodium coming from processed foods.
“While processed, pre-packaged and restaurant foods are commonplace in today’s society, the sodium these items contain pose a great health risk to children and their parents who consume them,” Dr. Roberti said.
She has encouraged parents to read labels carefully to check for sodium content, and advises them to avoid foods with more than 200mg per serving.
A full copy of the Statistics Canada study is available to download via this link.