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Circulation. 2007 Sep 25;116(13):1488-96. Epub 2007 Sep 10.

High blood pressure trends in children and adolescents in national surveys, 1963 to 2002.

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Morehouse School of Medicine, Social Epidemiology Research Center, 520 Westview Dr SW, NCPC-315, Atlanta, GA 30310-1495, USA.



Secular trend data on hypertension in children and adolescents are scarce and inconsistent. In the face of growing obesity, we sought to assess high blood pressure (HBP) secular trends in children and adolescents enrolled in national surveys and to determine whether the HBP trend reversed its course with the rise in obesity.


National survey data obtained from multistage probability sampling of the US noninstitutionalized population from 1963 to 2002 were examined; 8- to 17-year-old non-Hispanic blacks and whites and Mexican Americans were included. HBP ascertainment was based on age-, gender-, and height percentile-specific systolic and diastolic BPs. Weighted analyses were performed to account for the complex design. The BP, pre-HBP, and HBP trends were downward from 1963 to 1988 and upward thereafter. Pre-HBP and HBP increased 2.3% (P=0.0003) and 1% (P=0.17), respectively, between 1988 and 1999. Obesity increase, more so abdominal than general obesity, partially explained the rise in HBP and pre-HBP from 1988 to 1999. BP and HBP reversed their downward trends 10 years after the increase in the prevalence of obesity. Additionally, an ethnic and gender gap appeared in 1988 for pre-HBP and in 1999 for HBP; non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans had a greater prevalence of HBP and pre-HBP than non-Hispanic whites, and males had a greater prevalence than females.


HBP and pre-HBP in children and adolescents are on the rise. These new findings have implications for the cardiovascular disease public health burden, particularly the risk of a new cardiovascular disease transition. They reinforce the urgent call for early prevention of obesity and HBP and illustrate racial/ethnic disparities in this age group.

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