Are your children eating too many salty snacks? How is their blood pressure?

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If it's high, you certainly aren't alone.

In fact, the percentage of American children and adolescents ages 8 to 17 who have high blood pressure has climbed more than 27 percent over 13 years. That's according to new research published in the journal Hypertension.

The research links rising blood pressure to increasing body mass index, especially waist circumference, and sodium intake. From 1988 to 1994, the research found that 15.8 percent of boys and 8.2 percent of girls could be classified as having elevated blood pressure.

From 1999 to 2008, those percentages jumped to 19.2 percent for boys and 12.6 percent for girls. Being that added pounds and being overweight is a key risk factor for high blood pressure in adults, it's not surprising that the same can be said about children.

"What's important to think about is as our society has gone away from meals at home and the fact that we've become more of a mobile society, certainly snacks have changed, foods have changed and we have more access to those foods that contribute to obesity," said Dr. Christopher Haines, Chief Medical Officer at Children's Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick.

"In addition to obesity, there's also a risk of the subsequent damage and health problems that can happen as a result. We never used to think about kids having hypertension, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes and these things are starting to happen at much earlier ages than we've seen in the past."

So, what can parents do to help their children?

"It's important for families to read labels and look at that sodium intake. I think you have to find a happy medium. You don't want too much sodium intake or too little sodium intake," said Dr. Haines. "It's also important to continue to promote a positive self image in our children. Keep in mind that everything in moderation is fine. It's ok to have some ice cream, but not every day. We can also plan ahead when it comes to our meals and make good decisions ahead of time."

Daily exercise is also important.

"We tend to be a society that spends a lot of time in front of the television. It's important to get outside and get some exercise, but even more importantly, families need to work together as a team to make healthy choices," said Haines.