Most people think that high blood pressure (hypertension) is a common disease in adults and elderly people since age is one of major risk factors of the disease. But now this perception may be wrong because this chronic health problem can affect people of all ages, including kids and teenagers. In fact, the cases of hypertensive kids are increasing along with a trend of increasing numbers of children with obesity. What are other facts you need to know – keep reading?!
Several decades ago, hypertension in kids is often associated with specific health conditions that affect blood pressure such as kidney or heart problem.
Today, some still show the same correlation but the interesting comes from lifestyle factors and obesity that may have more contribution than before.
In fact, lack of physical activity, stress, poor diet, and overweight are now more often found in many hypertensive children than heart or kidney problem. But overall, all of these factors can increase the risk.
High blood pressure that is more associated with an underlying health condition is medically called as secondary hypertension. And if it occurs due to the combination of lifestyle factors (typically it develops on its own without involving an underlying problem) is called primary or essential hypertension.
A family history of hypertension, obesity, chronic high blood sugar (diabetes), and high cholesterol (especially high LDL ‘low density lipoprotein’ and high triglyceride) are some major risk factors of primary hypertension in kids.
Other underlying health problems that can raise the rate of developing secondary hypertension in children include:
- Over-active thyroid (medically called as hyperthyroidism).
- Problems that affect adrenal gland such as tumor of adrenal gland (very rare) and adrenal disorders.
- Lupus, because it also can affect kidneys.
- Renal artery stenosis (problem of narrowing artery that lines to the kidney).
Measuring the levels of your blood pressure (BP) is more practical and painless if compared with tests to measure blood sugar and blood cholesterol. But unlike in adults, to make a conclusion that a kid has pre-hypertension or hypertension is more complex. In adults, once you know the average resting BP, you will know easily where you are – whether normal, pre-hypertension, stage I hypertension or stage II hypertension!
Generally, the resting BP lower than 120 /80 mm Hg is considered normal for most adults. But for a better goal, some doctors recommend going to lower than 115 /75 mm H! Visit this section for in-depth information about this issue!
The top number typically points to systolic pressure. It is your BP when your heart is pumping the blood or when your heart is contracting. And for the bottom number, typically it points to your diastolic pressure (your BP when your heart is not pumping /contracting ‘between beats of the heart’)!
In children, the classification of systolic and diastolic pressure for the categories of normal, pre-hypertension, and hypertension is not as simple as in adults. It can vary that typically closely associated with the age, gender, and even height also has an effect.
This means that a high systolic and diastolic pressure reading for 3-year-old girl can be considered normal for 11-year-old boy. This issue may be confused for you. But don’t worry! For healthcare professionals, it is not a problem because they completely understand how to interpret a blood pressure reading for children.
The most challenging, typically there is no any sign or symptom of hypertension until it gets worse and cause complications. Some people believe that headache, chest pain, are fatigue are some common symptoms.
But in fact, these symptoms also can be caused by other factors. So the only one to make sure that your children don’t have hypertension is by checking their BP!
Unless kids have an underlying health condition associated with hypertension, parents probably don’t have to visit a doctor to have their kid’s blood pressure checked.
To keep safe, it’s much better to check blood pressure of your child as part of a routine appointment with your child’s doctor – starting in the age of 3 years-old.
However, your doctor may suggest monitoring your child’s BP earlier if she /he have some risk factors of hypertension. Children with low birth weight, premature birth, or have certain health conditions are usually suggested to take regularly BP checks during infancy.
In addition, if you worry about a risk factor of hypertension associated with lifestyle factor such as obesity, consult more with a doctor for more advice! Since obesity is now considered as the most responsible factor of hypertension in children and adolescent, you should not ignore it!
According to an outline released by CDC, childhood hypertension often leads to hypertension in adulthood. It is also associated with the increased rate of developing heart disease and even the risk of earlier death.
And according to AHA ‘the American Heart Association’, a research showed that teenagers with obesity and hypertension may have increased risk of developing thicker arteries by 30. But all of these risks can be prevented if they start the comprehensive health plan as earlier as possible.
Fortunately, hypertension is manageable condition and it is also often successfully managed with lifestyle approaches.
If you have a kid with hypertension, don’t worry, there are still plenty options you can do with your kid to get many healthy years ahead.
Here are some tips you can follow: