NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS Connecticut) – As kids waistlines are expanding, so is their intake of salty foods. A recent study found high blood pressure in American youth is increasing, putting youth at risk for strokes.

According to the study published by the Hypertension journal, 27 percent of American teens and children have an increased risk for high blood pressure because of more salt in their diets.

Researchers at Harvard collected data on more than 3,200 children aged 8 to 17 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994. They were compared to more than 8,300 children in the same survey from 1999 to 2008.

“High blood pressure is dangerous in part because many people don’t know they have it,” said lead researcher Bernard Rosner, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a statement. “It’s a very sneaky thing. Blood pressure has to be measured regularly to keep on top of it.”

Researchers took differences into account between the two groups of kids in terms of age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass, waistline size and salt intake in calculating risk for high blood pressure.

Children who consumed the most salt were 36 percent more likely to have high blood pressure compared to children who consumed the least. Black children had a 28 percent higher risk of high blood pressure than non-Hispanic white children.

Also, more children were overweight in the second study, and both sexes, especially girls, had bigger waistlines.

According to WebMD, Americans eat an average 3,400 milligrams of salt every day. That’s more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 1,500 mg or less. Two-thirds of sodium intake is from store-bought foods and one-quarter from restaurant offerings.

Researchers said high blood pressure accounts for some 350,000 preventable deaths each year in the United States.


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