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When you think about it, including teenagers, hypertension (high blood pressure), and heart disease all in the same thought really makes quite a bit of sense. After all, teenagers are famous for giving their parents a heart attack. They stay out past curfew (and conveniently “forget” to call), “borrow” the neighbor's golf cart (without first asking if it was okay to borrow it), skip class, forget to turn in homework (or do homework), sneak off to parties they promised you they wouldn’t attend, date a boy to old or girl too young, and generally drive parents a little bit crazy. While they’re busy driving their parents crazy, they’re also creating new “character” lines of their face, strands of silver in their hair, and driving their blood pressure up. Parents of teenagers are seldom surprised to find that they’ve developed hypertension, a known risk factor for heart disease.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the parents who have to worry about hypertension. While only 1-3 percent of teenagers actually have hypertension, what teenagers consume during their teen years may have unexpected consequences that follow them into adulthood leading to the development of premature hypertension and increasing their risk of heart disease.
Hypertension, as defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, includes those persons who currently have elevated blood pressure or those who are currently taking medication to lower blood pressure levels. In all, about 32 percent (roughly one-third) of the total population suffer from high blood pressure with women faring slightly worse than men (32.9 percent of women have high blood pressure compared with 31.3 percent of men). While the percentage of young adults with high blood pressure is relatively low when compared to the general population, the instance of high blood pressure is on the increase. As young adults leave their teen years behind them and enter adulthood, the instance of high blood pressure rises significantly. Over nine percent of young men over the age of 20 report high blood pressure.
One of the culprits in the rise of hypertension in young adults is the consumption of salt during the teen years.