Hypertension in children linked to premature deaths globally: Experts

Experts cite rising inactivity, increased screen time, and junk food consumption as contributing factors

New Delhi: Hypertension, or high blood pressure (BP), is increasingly affecting children and young adults, contributing to a rise in premature deaths worldwide, according to health experts. Key factors include increased inactivity, extended screen time, and the consumption of junk food. These habits, prevalent among today’s youth, have been identified as significant contributors to pediatric hypertension.
Recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates a troubling trend: in 2022, approximately 390 million children and adolescents were overweight, with 160 million of them classified as obese. Obesity, a major risk factor for hypertension, is becoming alarmingly common among children.
“Childhood obesity becomes the root cause of many other diseases, including cardiovascular problems, and thus leads to hypertension at a tender age,” said Dr. Praveen Gupta, Chief of Neurology and Principal Director at FMRI Gurugram. “With changes in lifestyle and diet, the risks of hypertension in children can be mitigated. However, certain causes of pediatric hypertension are more complex, including genetic and hormonal disorders. Unfortunately, even if undetected or untreated in childhood, hypertension can raise the long-term risk of serious heart conditions like stroke and heart attack by four times. Pediatric hypertension is a burning health concern and requires the instant attention of parents for the well-being of their children.”
Globally, hypertension in children is a significant cause of premature deaths. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation by confining children indoors, away from playgrounds and parks, which negatively impacted their physical and mental health.
Dr. H K Chopra, Senior Consultant in Clinical and Preventive Cardiology at Moolchand Medcity, emphasized, “Healthy modifications in lifestyle can decrease the risk of hypertension in children and adults. Right from an early age, children should be encouraged for regular exercise and healthy eating habits. Consumption of a DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), regular health check-ups and quality sleep are some of the essentials that can mitigate the risk of hypertension. Screen time, obstructive sleeping schedules, lack of consistent exercises, and regularity in consumption of high sodium diet and junk food are the main causes of hypertension in children.”
Dr. Praveen Gupta highlighted, “As a neurologist, I am deeply concerned by the rising trend of childhood obesity and its potential long-term consequences, including stroke. Strokes, once thought of as a condition affecting only adults, are becoming increasingly prevalent in children due to factors like high blood pressure often associated with obesity. Early intervention is crucial. By promoting healthy lifestyles and weight management in children, we can significantly reduce their risk of stroke and other serious neurological complications later in life.”