Obese teenage girls at higher risk of blood pressure than boys

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Teenage girls across the United States have struggled with mental health issues resulting from being obese, but a new study from the University of California shows that they also have to deal with more physical problems resulting from obesity than teenage boys do.

The study, which followed 1,700 teenagers, showed that the girls were at a higher risk for high blood pressure if they are obese. The study was presented to the American Physiological Society at one of its conferences and showed that teenage girls were three times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure as a result of their obesity than teenage boys.

High blood pressure is a precursor for many health conditions, including heart disease and stroke, conditions that teenagers don’t often encounter.

Obesity in the U.S. is defined using the Body Mass Index, or BMI, which measures weight against height. Those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese, and teenage girls with a BMI of 30 or higher are put at a great risk for heart attack, high cholesterol, more weight gain later in life and stroke.

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The researchers followed the 1,700 teenagers, all of whom were between the ages of 13 and 17, by taking their blood pressure on a routine basis, recording both systolic and diastolic measurements. The systolic number is reflective of the force that the blood puts on the blood vessel walls when the heart is pumping the blood through the vessels. The diastolic number is reflective of the force the pumping blood puts on the arteries between heartbeats. The systolic number being high means the person is at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

The research also found that obese boys were three and a half times more likely than non-obese boys to have high systolic numbers.

"Overall, there is a higher likelihood that those who present with both higher BMI and blood pressure will succumb to cardiovascular complications as adults,” said Lead Researcher Dr. Rudy Ortiz. “"But the findings suggest that obese females may have a higher risk of developing these problems than males."

Ortiz added that the difference in numbers could reflect exercise levels, as obese teenage boys were 60 percent more likely to get regular exercise than obese teenage girls.

While researchers are unsure specifically what the research could mean, medical professionals are all in agreement that there needs to be a greater focus on fighting obesity in children and teenagers.

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