Hypertension is a hallmark risk factor for multiple cardiac diseases, making its detection and management crucial to long-term health. Increasingly, sedentary lifestyles and diets high in salt and fat have contributed to its prevalence even among younger age groups.

In a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Vasudevan and colleagues explored the disease burden of hypertension among teens in India based on a nationally representative study of metabolic health in teens. The study suggested a high prevalence of hypertension among young people, almost matching that of adults. Furthermore, overweight and obesity were shown to be drivers of its presence in young people.

GlobalData epidemiologists project a rise in diagnosed prevalent cases of hypertension among Indian adults throughout the decade. Vasudevan and colleagues provide valuable context for this pattern, shedding light on its effects on a significant population even prior to adulthood. These findings can serve to motivate policy interventions promoting healthier lifestyles and lay out a rationale for medical professionals to screen for hypertension more aggressively among children and adolescents. 

Vasudevan and colleagues analysed data from more than 16,000 participants from the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS), a multicentre cross-sectional study conducted throughout India between 2016 and 2018. The CNNS focused on key metabolic and anthropometric markers among children and adolescents aged between ten and 19 years old. The authors used the results of the survey to examine the relationships between hypertension and multiple demographic and biological variables.

Serum biomarkers indicated a 35.1% prevalence of hypertension among 10-12-year-olds and 25.1% among those aged 13 and older, compared to a 33% prevalence among adults from similar national studies. The data did not suggest a significant influence from sex or location in urban or rural settings, but anthropometric and biochemical indicators appeared to play a significant role in the prevalence of hypertension. Notably, those classified as obese or overweight expressed a higher prevalence of hypertension than those within the normal weight category. As seen in Figure 1, obese participants showed a higher prevalence of hypertension in both age groups, with a presence in almost half of obese 10-12-year-olds.

The findings from Vasudevan and colleagues’ work are a dire signal for the disease burden of cardiac disease in young people. Without meaningful interventions, the authors warn, children with high blood pressure ‘are likely to become adults with high blood pressure, with all the attendant sequelae’. According to GlobalData epidemiologists, diagnosed prevalent cases of adults with hypertension are expected to grow from nearly 113 million to more than 121 million between now and 2027 due to India’s current population dynamics. However, cases may surpass these forecast estimates without intervention to mitigate its high prevalence among those who have yet to reach adulthood.

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Officials could attempt to curb the prevalence of obesogenic lifestyles through policies promoting healthy diets and ample physical activity, especially in schools and recreational settings. Similarly, healthcare providers could integrate these findings by screening for hypertension earlier in life and educating parents on preventive behaviours. Although the high prevalence of hypertension portends a formidable public health challenge for the coming years, its early identification among India’s youth presents an opportunity to mitigate its worst effects.