Children can have high blood pressure

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 9:52 AM EST
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Hypertension, or high blood pressure, happens when blood flows through your arteries at a pressure higher than normal. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. But can kids also develop this common condition?

High blood pressure is a problem that doesn’t just affect adults.

“But indeed, we do have cases of high blood pressure in the pediatric population,” said Ashanti Woods, MD, a pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

In fact, high blood pressure affects about four percent of all children and about 15 percent of teens. Twenty-five percent of obese kids have the condition. Often, there are no defining symptoms, but children may have headaches, dizziness, blurry vision, loss of appetite, or stomach pain. So, diagnosing high blood pressure in young patients is tricky. While many doctors use 100 over 60 as an average reading, the guidelines for kids are based on age, gender, height, and weight.

“So, a normal three-year-old’s blood pressure is actually going to be different than a normal ten-year-old’s blood pressure,” continued Dr. Woods.

Sometimes, high blood pressure in kids is due to chronic health conditions such as kidney disease or heart issues, but often poor lifestyle choices are to blame. Doctors say know your child’s blood pressure. Pediatricians will take it at every checkup starting at age three. Also, make sure your child avoids high-sodium, high-sugar, and processed foods. Some sneaky culprits to watch out for: sodas, sports drinks, chips, and even some noodles!

“One seasoning packet in a container of noodles has just about enough sodium for the entire day,” shared Dr. Woods.

High blood pressure shouldn’t be ignored. After a while, untreated high blood pressure can damage the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. Doctors will usually first try to treat it with lifestyle changes before resorting to medications for children.

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