Strong Link Between Obesity, High Blood Pressure for Hispanic Teens

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The lead study author said the findings are important to help medical professionals identify teens most at risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease as adults.

Rising rates of obesity among teens are a problem across ethnic groups in the United States, but for Hispanic teens, the connection to high blood pressure is especially severe, according to research from McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, don’t explain why Hispanic teens who are obese are far more likely to have high blood pressure than teens who are white, African-American, or Asian. Increasing body mass index (BMI) was associated with increased risk of high blood pressure among obese teens across all major ethnic groups:

· Hispanic teens were 6 times more likely to have high blood pressure if they were obese, compared with normal weight teens

· Among white teens, the rate was 4 times higher

· Among Asian teens, the rate was 3 times higher


· Among African-American teens, the rate was twice as high.

The stronger connection between BMI and high blood pressure among Hispanic teens is worrisome, as it puts them at higher risk for diabetes as they get older. According to CDC, 50% of Hispanics are likely to develop type 2 diabetes over their lifetime, compared with 40% of all US adults. This puts Hispanics at higher risk for complications such as kidney failure and retinopathy. According to the National Kidney Foundation, Hispanics are 66% more likely to be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease than white Americans.

Thus, identifying which teens are most at risk is important to preventing a progression to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. “We believe we are the first to compare adolescent blood pressure to body mass index in these 4 major ethnic/racial groups,” lead author Joshua Samuels, MD, MPH, said in a statement. Samuels is a pediatric nephrologist and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the medical school.

Findings came from an analysis of 21,062 adolescents taking part in a high school blood pressure screening program that McGovern Medical School operates. Testing took place at 27 schools in the Houston area between 2000 and 2015.

The contrast between Hispanic teens who were obese and those of normal weight was notable. “The prevalence of high blood pressure among Hispanic adolescents rises sharply with weight gain,” Samuels said. “Normal weight Hispanic adolescents had the lowest level of high blood pressure among the four groups, but obese Hispanic adolescents had the highest.”

For study purposes, high blood pressure was defined as being in the 95th percentile or higher for 3 consecutive screenings. Those in the 85th to 94th percentile of BMI were designated as overweight, while those at the 95th percentile or higher were categorized as obese.


Cheung EL, Bell CS, Samuel JP, Poffenberger T, Redwine KN, Samuels, JA. Race and obesity in adolescent hypertension [published April 10, 2017]. Pediatrics. 2017. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-1433.