Most people think of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, as a condition that affects older people. But high blood pressure affects people of all ages — including young children.
Why is high blood pressure in children a growing problem? What can you do to protect your child from this threat? The first step is to learn all you can about high blood pressure in children, its causes, consequences, and treatment.
Blood pressure is the force of blood as it flows through the body’s vessels. Under normal conditions, the heart pumps blood through the vessels all over the body. The vessels widen and contract as needed to keep blood flowing well. In a person with hypertension, however, the blood pushes too hard against the blood vessels, which can cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, and other organs.
It’s easy for adults to tell if they have high blood pressure simply by having blood pressure checks and comparing the numbers to a simple chart. Children have the same tests; however, interpreting the numbers is trickier. Your child’s doctor will use charts based on your child’s sex, height, and blood pressure numbers to determine whether your child has high blood pressure.
As in adults, high blood pressure in children can result in serious, long-term health effects, including:
Risk factors for high blood pressure in children include obesity and a family history of high blood pressure. Other risk factors may include medical problems such as hormonal abnormalities, narrowing of the aorta, sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.
Obesity is considered the primary risk for high blood pressure in children. Not only does being obese put your child at risk for high blood pressure, but also for a range of other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers are still trying to determine the most effective way to treat high blood pressure in children. In general, treating high blood pressure in kids is not that different from treating it in adults. Work closely with your child’s doctor to find which treatment plan will work best for your child. Here are some general guidelines:
Help your child control high blood pressure by following the doctor’s plan carefully. In addition, you can take these steps.
By working with your health specialist to develop a comprehensive health plan, you can help your child control high blood pressure — and enjoy many healthy years ahead.