High blood pressure in childhood could triple the risk of developing the condition in adulthood, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine found that 18 percent of adults with high blood pressure also had at least one high blood pressure reading when they were children. Meanwhile, just 8.6 percent of adults with high blood pressure didn't have it as children.
"This study highlights the need for pediatricians to regularly check blood pressure and weight," study researcher Wanzhu Tu, Ph.D., a professor of biostatistics at the university, said in a statement. "An occasional increase in blood pressure does not justify treatment, but it does justify following these children more carefully."
High blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
The study, presented at the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions this year, is based on data from 1,117 adolescents in Indianapolis who were followed for 27 years. All the participants had their blood pressure taken during doctor office visits or by a school nurse.
By the end of the study period, when the participants had become adults, 119 had high blood pressure.
Researchers also found links between weight and high blood pressure in adulthood: 59 percent of those with high blood pressure in adulthood were obese or overweight in childhood.
The new findings are especially important, considering high blood pressure is actually increasing among U.S. kids. A recent study in the journal Hypertension showed that between 1999 and 2008, 19.2 percent of kids ages 8 to 17 in the U.S. had high blood pressure. That's an increase from the 1998-to-1994 time period, when 15.8 percent of kids in that age group had hypertension.