Childhood Obesity Leads to High Blood Pressure in Children
Tuesday, August 24, 2010 • 11:59am
LIVINGSTON, NJ - The growing problem of childhood obesity brings with it a less well-known problem that can have serious ramifications for overweight children. High blood pressure, or hypertension, a disease normally associated with middle-aged to older persons; can also occur in children, particularly overweight children, with potentially devastating results.
At one time, M. Isabel Roberti, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Pediatric Nephrology and Transplantation at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, saw few cases of "essential hypertension" in children. Essential hypertension is an elevated blood pressure that is not due to any clinical condition or disease.
Individuals with a genetic predisposition toward high blood pressure usually experience the onset of essential hypertension in their 20's or later. In the last 10 years, however, Dr. Roberti has seen patients coming in at younger and younger ages with essential hypertension. "I have seen over a hundred children with hypertension between the ages of 8 to 18 years old within the last couple of years," explains Dr. Roberti. "One third of them are obese and are experiencing early onset of essential hypertension due solely to their diet and inactivity. The right gene and the wrong diet can be a very dangerous combination," she says. "This form of hypertension in children is completely preventable."
In children, as in all individuals, hypertension can lead to kidney disease and/or kidney failure. It can cause a stroke as well as a heart attack, vision problems, and other damage to internal organs. Symptoms may include dizziness, nausea or vomiting; lethargy, headache; vision problems; or nosebleeds.
Dr. Roberti credits school nurses for recognizing the symptoms and referring some patients to her. "Many obese children have parents who also have a weight problem," she says. "It may be difficult for them to objectively see their child's weight problem or even see it as a medical problem that needs to be addressed. We, therefore, count on school nurses and pediatricians to identify hypertension in children who may be at risk."
Treatment includes a diet focused on weight loss and reduced salt, regular exercise, and often, medication. She also cautions that additional risks associated with obesity and high fat, high salt diets can include the development of Diabetes and Hyperlipidemia, the presence of raised or abnormal levels of lipids and/or lipoproteins in the blood.
Since 1996, The Pediatric Nephrology and Transplantation Division of Saint Barnabas Health Care System has been improving the quality of life for New Jersey's youngest patients with renal disease, renal dysfunction and hypertension. Started as the first complete pediatric nephrology service in the state, it has built on a decade of technical excellence, clinical research and advocacy for the growing number of families who are choosing the transplant alternative for their children. The Division treats children of all ages and performs more kidney transplants than any other facility in New Jersey. To learn more, please call 973-322-5264or visit www.saintbarnabas.com.