Study: High blood pressure, obesity hit Hispanic, white teens hardest

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One in three American adults has high blood pressure.

It's a condition that causes the heart to pump harder, and puts pressure on the arteries.  Left untreated, hypertension can raise a person's risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and vision loss.

They often call high blood pressure a "silent" killer because there are often no warning signs or symptoms.

Often, the problem is tied to being overweight or obese.

And, as American kids grow heavier, their odds of developing hypertension are going up.

A new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center shows being overweight or obese may be especially risky,  when it comes to high blood pressure, for white and Hispanic teens.

But Dr. Stephanie Walsh, Director of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's wellness program, Strong4Life, believes the problem -- is bigger than that.

"I think we need to be looking closer at kids in general," Dr. Walsh says. "Just because there is a higher risk in some groups versus the other doesn't mean we don't look across the board. Blood pressure screening is part of every well child check."

Dr. Walsh says hypertension can be effectively managed,  if it's detected.

"There are several medications out there that really can make a difference, but we have to stay on top of it," she says.  "We really have to be looking for it in some of these teens."

Researchers tracked weight and blood pressure in about 21,000 Houston area students with an average age of 14.  

 A third were overweight or obese, and close to 3 percent (2.7 percent) had high blood pressure.

But, obese Hispanic teens were nearly 6 times more likely, and obese white teens 4 times more likely to have hypertension than their normal weight peers.

Walsh says hypertension should be on every pediatrician's radar screen.

"We just need to look at it a little more carefully," she says.  "That's what this study is showing us.  It's really more prevalent than we think.  Are we missing it."

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