Kids Can Have High Blood Pressure Too: What Parents Need To Know
September 6, 2017
We normally think of hypertension, or high blood pressure, as a condition affecting adults. However, more and more children and adolescents are being diagnosed with this “silent killer,” which often has no symptoms and over time, can damage the kidneys, heart and brain, and lead to serious health problems. This is why prevention and early detection of high blood pressure in children is so important.
Pediatric High Blood Pressure On The Rise
Approximately 3.5% of children and adolescents in the U.S. have high blood pressure—an increase of 1-2% over past estimates. And experts say the numbers are probably much higher because many cases go undetected and untreated.
While the increase is likely tied to the childhood obesity epidemic–being overweight is a major risk factor for high blood pressure–children with all body types can develop hypertension.
Addressing High Blood Pressure Early
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed new guidelines calling on pediatricians to check blood pressure in all children at annual well visits starting at age 3. If you have a family history of high blood pressure or your child is overweight or born premature, your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings.
Previous guidelines focused on blood pressure measurements in children who were overweight or obese. The new guidelines help ensure all children are screened so problems can be addressed early.
Steps To Take If Your Child Is Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure
If your child is diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will likely make the following recommendations:
- Check for other treatable causes of high blood pressure such as kidney disease, vascular issues, medications, and hormonal conditions.
- Make sure your child eats a healthy, low-salt diet, containing lots of whole fruits and vegetables–recommendations that can benefit the entire family. Avoid table salt and canned and prepared foods, lunch meats, and fast foods that tend to be high in salt.
- Encourage your child to get plenty of physical activity and maintain a healthy weight. Limit screen time and present active options to keep your kids and family moving. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
If lifestyle changes don’t help lower your child’s blood pressure, or they have another condition like diabetes or kidney disease, your doctor may prescribe medication. There are a variety of medications that are both safe and effective.
Jennifer S. Ammons, MD
Jennifer S. Ammons, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician with Roseville Pediatrics. Dr. Ammons is a graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and completed her residency at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Her special areas of interest include child safety, infectious diseases, and immunizations.