Children's salt intake, high blood pressure a worry
ONE IN 10 Irish school children have high blood pressure and over half add salt to their food most days or every day, according to very early findings from the Cork Children’s Lifestyle Study.
“If this is the case when we look at the full sample of 1,000 children in the study, it will have significant implications down the road for the children themselves and for our future health system, as high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Janas Harrington from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCC who is leading the study with department head, Prof Ivan Perry.
The study, which is being funded by the National Children’s Research Centre in Crumlin, is investigating the wellbeing, diet and exercise levels of Cork children. To date, 140 children from third and fourth classes in primary schools in Cork city and county have been surveyed. The next phase of the study starts this month.
Dr Harrington said that although it was too early to draw conclusions at this stage, there were some indications of patterns in the data.
One in 10 children who took part in the study was considered to have high blood pressure, based on an interpretation of British Hypertension Society guidelines. Twice as many overweight/ obese children had high blood pressure compared with children of a normal weight.
“At the moment, we don’t really have any information on levels of blood pressure in children in Ireland. Internationally it has been shown that some children as young as nine have high blood pressure. Quite a high number of the children we studied reported adding salt to their food, which already contains a lot of hidden salt today.”
The children’s physical activity is monitored over seven days using a wrist-worn odometer; their height, weight and blood pressure are also measured. This is the first time such a study has been done on this scale in Ireland and it should provide a better understanding of the dietary and activity habits of Irish nine-year-old children, according to Dr Harrington.