More than a third of overweight kids, age 2 through 18, already have elevated blood pressure, according to a study of 497 kids that appears in the August 2005 Pediatrics. About half of the kids with high blood pressure were already in trouble with their cholesterol levels. Strikingly, more than a quarter of overweight kids who still had normal blood pressure already had abnormal cholesterol levels. And many of these kids already have elevated insulin levels, setting them up for increasing weight problems and for type 2 diabetes.
Children with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the 95th percentile for their gender and age are considered to be overweight. There are more overweight kids every year. I recommend that parents learn the BMI of their children and where it fits on the growth curves.
The immediate take home message of this study is that if your children are at or above the 95th percentile, it is wise to check their blood pressures, and to check their cholesterol panels even if the blood pressure is normal. But the bigger message is that our society would be wise to promote healthy weight in kids. And parents would be wise to take action, even if society doesn’t.