Overweight, out-of-shape teens at risk of high blood pressure later in life: study

January 27, 2016

New Orleans – Teens who are overweight or have poor physical fitness may have high blood pressure by middle age, according to research from Ochsner Medical Center.

As part of the study, researchers examined “aerobic capacity,” muscle strength and body mass index in about 1.5 million 18-year-old members of the Swedish military. The soldiers were tracked until they reached a maximum age of 62. Follow-up conducted an average of 26 years after the initial assessments showed that more than 93,000 (6 percent) of the soldiers had been diagnosed with hypertension.

Even among participants with a normal BMI, low fitness level was linked to a higher risk of hypertension. Those who had both a low fitness level and a high BMI had risk of hypertension 3.5 times higher than participants with a high fitness level and a normal BMI. Muscle strength had little impact on high blood pressure risk.

“If confirmed, these findings suggest that interventions to prevent hypertension should begin early in life and include not only weight control but also aerobic fitness, even among those with a normal BMI,” researchers wrote in the study.

Studies show that one in four U.S. adults has hypertension, and the condition’s prevalence has risen in the past two decades with the increase in sedentary life and obesity.

The study was published online Jan. 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine.