A new study reveals that while high cholesterol levels in U.S. children have decreased since 1999, approximately one in ten youth still has high blood pressure. The research, which was published in the JAMA Pediatrics report, also indicates that in 2012, approximately 20 percent of kids within America (ages 8 to 17) suffered unhealthy cholesterol levels, and 10 percent experienced hypertension or borderline hypertension. If this trend continues, as adults, these children could potentially experience heart issues, and possible death.
“Our research suggests there were modest improvements in blood cholesterol levels and stable blood pressure levels among children between 1999 and 2012,” said lead author of the report, Dr. Brian K. Kit.
“Because cholesterol levels and blood pressure in childhood are associated with cholesterol levels and blood pressure in adulthood, changes during childhood may have long-term significance,” added Kit, who is with the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Kit and his team used National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data for their research, including direct measurements of fat and cholesterol in the blood, and blood pressure readings from seven surveys between 1999 and 2012. Data was reviewed for approximately 1,500 youth, ages eight to 18, taking a closer look at blood cholesterol and blood pressure readings.
In a 2011-2012 survey, about 20 percent of the children had something called ‘adverse lipid concentration’; which simply means they had high total cholesterol, high bad cholesterol or low good cholesterol. Eleven percent of those children studied also had high or borderline-high blood pressure readings.
The good news is, since the previous 1999 survey, unhealthy cholesterol levels have shown a declined; with 10 percent of the youth having high total cholesterol in the past study, and only 7.8 percent showing in 2012. There were also fewer kids with high blood pressure over the decade, a decrease from three percent to 1.6 percent. However, borderline high blood pressure remained the same in both studies, as well as when high blood pressure was categorized together with high categories for children.
“Cholesterol levels and blood pressure are influenced by many factors including diet, physical activity and exposure to smoke,” Kit states.
While the research didn’t examine why unhealthy cholesterol decreased, and blood pressure remained steady; Kit states that increased awareness around screening and prevention in youth is vital to avoid heart disease risk that may haunt these children as adults.
Kit also notes that The National Institutes of Health has released guidelines for pediatricians to assist youth with high cholesterol or high blood pressure issues. Areas of improvement that are listed includes: diet and nutrition, physical activity or medication.