Nightly News   |  July 15, 2013

Alarming rise in high blood pressure among children

Researchers blame obesity for the increase in the number of kids with high blood pressure -- too much salt is another reason blood pressure levels are so high. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as we mentioned, our health news story tonight is important, it is about high blood pressure which, of course can lead to so many other serious illnesses a new study out tonight found an alarming increase in children with high blood pressure . our report from our chief medical editor, dr. nancy snyderman .

>> you have done amazing.

>> reporter: 15-year-old ethan borest is on a mission to get healthy, like a lot of kids, he is struggling with his weight. and more surprisingly, high blood pressure .

>> my favorite salty snacks are those little 100-calorie things of popcorn, fritos. that is my weakness.

>> reporter: today's study examined over 11,000 children ages 8 to 17 for more than a decade and found an alarming rise of high blood pressure , an increase of 39%. researchers blame obesity for the increase in the number of kids with high blood pressure and they say too much salt is another reason blood pressure levels are so high.

>> there's a lot of sodium contained in places you wouldn't expect. it's in yogurt. it's in processed foods . it's in soup. it's even in breads.

>> reporter: as for salt, how much is too much? it varies. ages 1 to 3, no more than 1,000 milligrams a day. 4 to 8 years old, 1200 milligrams are. ages 9 to 50, 1500 milligrams. these are all markedly less than adding one teaspoon of salt a day.

>> small changes can make a big difference.

>> reporter: joanna is the medical director at camp shane.

>> you guys want to hear some music?

>> reporter: where ethan is getting in shape this summer.

>> what i have been seeing lots of young kids high blood pressure readings. i haven't seen that so frequently in the past. and in fact, i actually sent my machine it in to be checked.

>> reporter: stabilizing blood pressure can prevent long-term problems like premature heart attack, stroke and kidney disease , just the type of conditions ethan wants to avoid. he has lost 50 pounds and his blood pressure is now under control.

>> the more he continues to lose weight , the more we are gonna try and avoid this high blood pressure from coming back.

>> reporter: prolonged elevated blood pressure isn't good for brain growth either and the concern is if blood pressure remains elevated, that can put pressure on the brain and that might even be a risk factor for dementia later in life, brian. all good reasons to get it controlled.

>> dr. nancy snyderman in our home studios in new york. nancy, thanks.