High blood pressure rates increasing among children, adolescents, study shows

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – High blood pressure is a chronic health condition that affects millions of Americans.

When we think of high blood pressure, we most always think of adults.

Now, experts have found the rates of high blood pressure in kids has been steadily increasing over the last decade

1. What is high blood pressure and what can it do to your body?

– Blood pressure is determined by the balance between the output of blood from the heart and the resistance to blood flow in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to all of the parts of the body.

The greater the resistance, the harder the heart has to work. This can result in damage to organs, in particular the heart and kidneys. Blood pressure is defined as pressures 120/80 or lower in adults.

However in kids, pressures should be lower. In fact, a pressure of 120/80 in a child is considered to be pre-hypertension and worthy of more complete evaluation. Guidelines state that blood pressure should be measured every year in kids from age 3 and onward. Unfortunately, many patients go undiagnosed.

2. Based on these latest studies, what do we now know about high blood pressure in kids?

– A study by pediatricians at Harvard found among children ages 3 to 18 over all, 3.4 percent have pre-hypertension and 3.6 percent have hypertension.

Another recent study of middle school and high school athletes in Philadelphia found 20 percent were overweight and 24 percent were obese, and almost 15 percent of the student-athletes had high blood pressure.

Researchers from the University of Michigan report that in adolescents who are obese, more than 30 percent of boys and between 23 and 30 percent of girls have pre-hypertension or hypertension.

3. What causes high blood pressure in children?

– The most common cause of high blood pressure in kids is obesity. However, there are other more easily reversible and treatable causes such as heart defects, kidney diseases, and other genetic problems. The key is to identify the fact that the child has high blood pressure and then look for the underlying cause and treat .

4. What can we do to reverse this trend?

– In general, high blood pressure is much easier to define in adults because we simply use one number. In kids, the definition of normal blood pressure in children depends on a child’s sex, age and height.

Pressures in the 90th percentile and above considered unhealthy.

Full-blown hypertension in children is defined as pressures in the 95th percentile and above. Physicians must be aware of this fact and consult a chart to make the diagnosis

Make sure your pediatrician checks your child’s blood pressure.

If you are concerned, you can purchase an over the counter blood pressure machine at your local drug store and check your childs blood pressure at home and record it to discuss later with your doctor.

Ensure that your kids eat a well balanced diet, avoid excess salt and get plenty of exercise.

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