Researchers have found that overweight kids have a doubled risk of high blood pressure, raising the risk of future heart attacks and strokes.
Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the study shows that obese four-year-old kids have a doubled risk of high blood pressure by age six.
"Parents need to be more physically active with young children and provide a healthy diet. Women should shed extra pounds before becoming pregnant, avoid gaining excess weight during pregnancy and quit smoking, as these are all established risk factors for childhood obesity," said study lead author Inaki Galan from Carlos III Health Institute in Spain.
For the study, the research team examined the link between excess weight and high blood pressure in 1,796 kids who were followed up two years later. Blood pressure was measured at both points, as Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Circumference (WC).
Compared to children maintaining a healthy weight between ages four and six, those with new or persistent excess weight according to BMI had 2.49 and 2.54 higher risk of high blood pressure, respectively.
In those with new or persistent abdominal obesity, the risks for high blood pressure were 2.81 and 3.42 greater, respectively.
"There is a chain of risk, whereby overweight and obesity lead to high blood pressure, which heightens the chance of cardiovascular disease if allowed to track into adulthood, but the results show that children who return to a normal weight also regain a healthy blood pressure," said Galan.
According to Galan, the best way to maintain a healthy weight and lose excess kilos is to exercise and eat a healthy diet. In addition to the central role of parents, the school curriculum needs to include three to four hours of physical activity every week.