Hypertension is usually associated with older adults, but many children have been diagnosed with the disorder, too. In some cases, hypertension is due to another medical condition, but overweight children who are in poor health are also susceptible to developing hypertension. Having all the facts will help keep your child healthy and his blood pressure normal.
Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure, and it occurs when the body has to work harder to pump blood through the arteries. A blood pressure reading measures the force it takes to move blood as the heart beats, and the more force it takes, the higher the blood pressure. In children under age 10, hypertension is usually caused by another medical problem, according to a 2008 article published in "Pediatrics." Heart defects, kidney disorders and genetic conditions can elevate a child's blood pressure. Children who are overweight or obese and who don't exercise regularly are at a higher risk for hypertension, too, according to MayoClinic.com.
Prevalence and Dangers
More children are being diagnosed with hypertension than in the past, according to a 2006 article published in "American Family Physician." Approximately 3 percent of children have high blood pressure, the KidsHealth website reports. When hypertension isn't treated, children are more likely to develop heart, brain, kidney and eye damage. Juvenile hypertension also increases the risk of adult hypertension, which is associated with coronary heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. According to MayoClinic.com, children with hypertension are more likely to develop sleep apnea, too. Sleep apnea causes snoring and abnormal breathing during slumber and can interfere with quality sleep.
Signs and Symptoms
Most children don't have any signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, according to MayoClinic.com. Once your child turns 3, his pediatrician will start checking his blood pressure at well-child and other office visits. Unless your child's blood pressure is very high, his doctor will likely check it several more times before diagnosing him with hypertension. If your child has a preexisting condition that increases his risk of hypertension, he'll likely have regular blood pressure checks, often starting at birth. Children who are overweight or obese should have their blood pressure monitored, too, since they are also at an increased risk.
Only your child's doctor can diagnose hypertension. If your child has an underlying medical condition, follow her pediatrician's advice for treating it. Proper treatment can help decrease the risk of high blood pressure. If your child is overweight or obese, her doctor will likely recommend a lower calorie diet and increased exercise to help her shed excess pounds. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake is often recommended, too, according to KidsHealth. Medication can be used, as well, but only at the discretion of your child's pediatrician.