High blood pressure alarm among young people. “It is estimated that in Italy almost 2 million under 35s already have altered blood pressure values, often without knowing it and in most cases due to a wrong lifestyle made up of an incorrect diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and alcohol”. But not only that: the phenomenon concerns “even children”. Taking stock on the occasion of World Heart Day which is celebrated on 29 September, are the experts of the Italian Society of Cardiology (Sic) who draw attention to the importance “of keeping blood pressure within the norm from a young age to reduce cardiovascular risk in the years to come”. Sic highlights that there are “too many hypertensive young people in our country: 14% of under 35s already have blood pressure above 120/80 mmHg, and up to 4% of children aged 6 to 11 have altered values but many do not they are aware of it.”
According to Sic, “a heart attack at the age of fifty, a stroke even before retiring: this is the fate that awaits those who have high blood pressure at the age of 18, according to a large Swedish study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine ‘according to which being hypertensive in late adolescence considerably increases cardiovascular risk as adults.” The data just published by researchers from the Swedish universities of Umea and Uppsala “are very solid – explains Pasquale Perrone Filardi, president of Sis and full professor of Cardiology and director of the School of Specialization in Cardiovascular Diseases at the Federico II University of Naples – almost 1.4 million men whose blood pressure was measured during their 18-year-old military service were followed up to the age of fifty, thus allowing us to evaluate the correlation between juvenile hypertension and the probability of subsequent cardiovascular events”
“In the Swedish sample, approximately 29% of eighteen-year-olds had altered blood pressure values, higher than 120/80 mmHg, 54% could be classified as hypertensive. In these people, over the years, there has been a gradual and substantial increase in the risk of cardiovascular events, so much so – observes Perrone Filardi – that one in ten eighteen-year-olds with hypertension had a heart attack or stroke before retirement while this did not happen to those with low blood pressure. These data indicate the need to start controlling blood pressure as early as adolescence: the earlier this risk factor appears, the more time it has to cause damage, therefore cardiovascular prevention must start at a very young age, trying to identify kids at risk”.
Arterial hypertension in adolescence and youth is attracting increasing concern due to the repercussions it can have for adult health. “Even children or adolescents with high blood pressure values have a great probability of becoming hypertensive in adulthood and therefore being at higher risk for the development of cardiovascular diseases”, explains Francesco Barillà, president of the ‘Il Cuore Siamo Noi’ Foundation, associate professor of Cardiology and director of Cardiology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata.
“Few parents think about it, even doctors rarely check blood pressure in children and teenagers, instead it would be good to measure once a year during growth checks starting around five or six years of age. Measuring blood pressure – recalls Barillà – is a simple gesture that becomes indispensable in young people who have parents or other close relatives with hypertension or who are overweight, one of the most relevant risk factors for the development of high blood pressure. Discovering hypertension in a child means being able to act promptly, to reduce it and thus also reduce cardiovascular risk in the years to come: in adolescents and young adults, pharmacological treatments are usually not necessary, it is sufficient to intervene on the lifestyle, trying to change habits in order to maintain the right weight through balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low in salt, saturated fats and sugars”.
“It is essential to increase physical activity to at least 150 minutes a week and above all to avoid smoking and alcohol, both factors that damage the heart and blood vessels. Finally – concludes Barillà – it is also advisable to teach young people good stress management, which contributes to raising pressure and is a very frequent element of risk among young adults”.