Kids with just occasional spikes in blood pressure during childhood are at much higher risk of having high blood pressure as adults, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2013.

“It’s important that primary care providers not ignore elevated blood pressure readings,” said Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., national American Heart Association spokesperson and pediatrician-in-chief and L. Joseph Butterfield Chair of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colo. “In children with elevated readings, it’s important to follow blood pressure and make sure that children and families work on lifestyle factors — avoiding obesity, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and to not starting smoking.”

After factoring in age, gender and weight, researchers found that adults had up to four times the rate of high blood pressure if they had high blood pressure readings during childhood. Only 9 percent of adults who had no high blood pressure readings during childhood had high blood pressure, compared to 18 percent who had one high reading and 35 percent who had two or more high readings.

The study also found that 59 percent of adults with high blood pressure had been overweight or obese as children. Childhood obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease in adulthood.

Researchers tracked 1,117 adolescent children for 27 years, starting in 1986 — by adulthood, 119 of them were diagnosed with high blood pressure. Blood pressure was taken by school nurses or at regular doctor visits.

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