Smoking around your baby could mean your child has high blood pressure by the time he heads off to kindergarten, according to a study published in the January 2011 issue of the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. Conducted by researchers in Germany, the study looked at family health records in a group of over 4,000 kindergarten-age boys and girls (average age 5.7). Compared to kids from non-smoking homes, children with at least one smoking parent were 21 percent more likely to have blood pressure readings in the highest 15 percent, even after taking into consideration birth weight, body mass index, and any family history of hypertension.
"Passive smoking increased the risk of having blood pressure at the upper end of normal, and some of these children already had high blood pressure," says Dr. Giacomo D. Simonetti, lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of the University of Berne in Switzerland, in a press release.
In the study, smoking by mothers had a larger impact than fathers’ smoking habits on whether or not a child developed high blood pressure. As researchers speculated, this could be because young children tend to spend more time at home with their mothers. Developing high blood pressure as a child may translate to cardiovascular health problems later on in adulthood. Other studies on smoking have shown that children exposed to secondhand smoke are put at increased risk for health problems ranging from asthma to ear infections. The obvious solution if you, or anyone else in your family, smokes? Make a plan to quit smoking and stick to it.
"Childhood blood pressure consistently tracks into adult life," Simonetti notes. "Removing any avoidable risk factors as soon as possible will help reduce the risk for heart disease later on and improve the long-term health of children."