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High blood pressure in kids is on the rise

Posted by Kara Baskin  July 15, 2013 05:00 PM

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New research published today in Hypertension reveals that the percentage of American children and adolescents ages 8 to 17 who have high blood pressure (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, organ damage, heart attacks and strokes, among other unsavory things) has climbed 27 percent over 13 years. Researchers from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital and other institutions funded by the National Institutes of Health used two large national surveys to make these conclusions, says NBC. The research ties rising blood pressure to increasing body mass index and sodium intake. Doctors tell NBC that the main culprit is processed foods and that the primary remedy is through better diet and exercise (no surprise there); pediatricians also need to be diligent about measuring kids' blood pressure, because the issue isn't just specific to older adults. So how to curb kids' feverish desire for salty snacks?

My son's preferred grazing diet involves a dazzling array of orange and brown foods: goldfish and crackers are his chosen treats. While on vacation last week, he discovered an exotic bag of Cool Ranch Doritos on a picnic table and nearly knocked over his cousin angling for a bite.

I'm always trying to figure out crafty ways to upgrade his snack repertoire, even though only neon orange goldfish will do. At least I'm careful about limiting his snack time; typically, he only gets one snack per day, right after his nap. If he's hungry in between meals, I try (try!) to offer up some kind of fruit or veggie puree; at school, he gets sliced fruit. It's important to note that this study focused on kids ages 8 to 17. In my admittedly nonscientific opinion, younger kids tend to run around more; TV and video games have yet to completely hypnotize.

It's always shocking to look at the sodium levels of certain foods, isn't it? (I'm thinking wistfully of my favorite "healthy" brand of frozen pizza.) What's your snack agenda? Have you discovered anything low in sodium and ... tasty? Worse yet, have you ever quickly bought something touted as "healthy," only to discover that it's a sodium bomb?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Kara Baskin (@kcbaskin) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and mom to Andy. She thinks Sriracha and garlic make everything tastier. She loves Steely Dan and "Murder, She Wrote." Her More »

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