Out-of-Shape Teens May Face High BP Later
Even thin kids are at risk, study says, emphasizing importance of exercise
By Amy Norton
TUESDAY, Jan. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Teenagers who are either overweight or have low fitness levels face a heightened risk of developing high blood pressure by middle age, a large new study finds.
People who were both heavy and out of shape in their teens showed the biggest risk, researchers reported Jan. 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
But even thin teens were at risk of future blood pressure problems if their fitness levels were low. And high blood pressure is serious, raising the risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and premature death, the researchers noted.
Experts said the findings -- based on more than 1.5 million Swedish men followed for 26 years -- drive home a few major points. One is that physical activity matters, regardless of your weight.
And that goes beyond blood pressure, said Dr. Carl "Chip" Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at Ochsner Medical Center, in New Orleans.
"We know from many studies, including ones that my colleagues and I have published, that for major cardiovascular disease events and overall survival, fitness is even more important than fatness for predicting someone's risk," said Lavie, co-author of an editorial published with the study.
Dr. Casey Crump, the lead researcher on the work, agreed that fitness matters for everyone -- and that thinness does not equal good health.
"Good aerobic fitness has important benefits, even if you have a normal BMI," said Crump, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University Medical Center, in Stanford, Calif.
He said the same is true for people with a high BMI -- a measure of weight in relation to height. So even if people do not drop as many pounds as they'd like through exercise, they are still doing something positive for their health, Crump said.
Still, he added, in this study, weight at age 18 was a stronger predictor of high blood pressure than fitness levels. So ideally, Crump said, young adults should be physically fit, eat well, and be at a healthy weight.
However, "we know that a lot of young people are not meeting physical activity guidelines," Crump said.