The woes of adulthood are hitting today’s children too fast and not only via the pernicious influences of popular culture, marketing and peer pressure. More and more children are being diagnosed with chronic diseases that have previously been only seen in middle age adults.
Harvard Medical School researchers have found that there has been a 27 percent increase in the number of children aged 8-17 diagnosed with high blood pressure; one reason is a rise among children in obesity (which is also rising among kids around the globe). Today’s children are also at very real risk of type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, sleep apnea and joint pain, all diseases that had struck previous generations as they entered middle age.
Indeed, earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its first guidelines for type 2 diabetes, sometimes called adult-onset diabetes, among children, as pediatricians have not been trained to identify and diagnose this disease. Doctors are also expressing concerns that, in order to treat these diseases in children, they are prescribing them with the same medicines that adults take but with no idea about the long-term effects.
Minority children are especially at risk. The new study also found that, in African-American children, blood pressure was 28 percent higher than in non-Hispanic white children. Previous research has found that there is a higher rate of diabetes in minorities than in white: African-Americans and Native Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes as whites and Hispanics, 1.7 times as likely.
We Know What’s Raising Blood Pressure in Kids: Let’s Do Something About It!
In the new study, researchers drew their data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III which collects information on health, eating and lifestyle behaviors. 3,200 children were involved in the survey in 1988-1994 and more than 8,300 in 1999-2008. While the children found to have high blood pressure did not have diagnosed hypertension (which requires a threshold blood pressure reading of 140 -90), having elevated blood pressure (anything above 120-80) at a young age sets one at real risk for future serious health problems.
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