By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
Kids are eating as much salt as adults, and those consuming the highest amounts of sodium have a two or three times greater risk of having high blood pressure as kids who down the least amount, says a study out today.
Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the diets of 6,235 children, ages 8 to 18. The information was based on dietary recall from the kids themselves or with the help of an adult. The data show that children are consuming an average of almost 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, about the same as adults. Salt intake for kids ranged from 1,300 milligrams to 8,100 milligrams a day.
The government's dietary guidelines advise reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams for most people 2 and older, and cutting back to 1,500 milligrams for people 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
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For the study, kids' blood pressure was measured as was their height and weight. The definition of high blood pressure for kids is not one fixed number but varies by age, gender and height. Those whose blood pressure is in the 95th percentile and above for their age group have high blood pressure. If their blood pressure is in the 90-95th percentile, they have elevated or pre-high blood pressure.
Other research also has shown a link between high sodium intake and hypertension in kids. Being too heavy also increases the risk. Findings published online today in the journal Pediatrics.
-- On average, kids in the top quarter who consumed the highest amount of sodium had double the risk of elevated or high blood pressure as kids in the lowest quarter of salt intake.
-- Overweight or obese kids in the top quarter who consumed the highest amount of sodium had 3½ times the risk of elevated or high blood pressure as heavy kids in the lowest quarter of sodium consumption.
Having elevated or high blood pressure in childhood increases a person's risk of having hypertension during adulthood, says lead author Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with CDC. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke..
Several federal agencies, some state and city governments as well as the food industry are working to reduce salt consumption.
Reductions in sodium consumption among children could lead to a big difference in blood pressure now and in the future, Yang says. In the U.S., most of the sodium people eat comes from processed foods and restaurants, he says.
Stephen Daniels, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says, 'A big message here is that we should be more concerned about the salt intake of our kids. There is increasing evidence that kids are eating too much salt, and it can have an adverse impact on their health.'
In some people, sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart, the American Heart Association says.
High blood pressure means the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force and puts pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. The scar tissue that forms to repair those tears traps plaque and white blood cells, which can lead to blockages, blood clots and hardened, weakened arteries, the heart association says.
Another recent CDC study showed that more than half of the 67 million American adults who have high blood pressure don't have it under control.