CHICAGO — Blood pressure is rising among young Americans, according to a study published Tuesday that raises concern over potential health problems when the children grow up.
The study also suggested that what children eat and how much they exercise may be important factors -- in addition to previously recognized weight problems -- contributing to the increase.
"These results suggest that in another 10 to 20 years we will be facing much higher rates of hypertension, heart disease and stroke as these children become adults," said Paul Muntner of Tulane University in New Orleans, chief author of the report.
His study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., compared readings from two samples of more than 5,500 children, aged 8 to 17, taken from 1988 to 1994 and again in 1999 and 2000.
It found systolic levels -- the higher of the numbers in a blood pressure reading -- increased an average of 1.4 millimeters of mercury. The diastolic level, the lower number, rose by 3.3. The average blood pressure reading rose to 106/61 from 104/58.
Increases occurred in both readings among black, Mexican American and white boys and girls of all ages, the report said.
Blacks in general are known to run a higher risk of blood pressure problems, for genetic and other reasons. A separate study Monday, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, suggested caffeinated soft drinks and other beverages may play a role in elevating blood pressure among black youths.
For Mexican Americans studied in the Tulane report, the higher readings were caused largely by a sharper increase in the number who were overweight, the authors said.