Hypertension in Kids

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Written by: Dr Poonam SachdevUpdated at: Jan 23, 2013 11:20 IST
Hypertension in Kids

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Many of wonder if--- children can really have hypertension? Is hypertension a serious problem in children? Does it need to be treated? Hypertension, or high blood pressure, in children and adolescents is rare.


Is hypertension in children increasing?


Studies have shown that the rate of hypertension or high blood pressure is increasing in children. In the 1980 hypertension was found in approximately 1 percent of children where about 5 percent children show evidence of high blood pressure (BP) now days. Experts say that obesity is a major reason for increase in rate of hypertension in children.


What causes hypertension in children?


If a child has hypertension it sparks off an intense search for an underlying cause. Unlike in adults who have mostly essential or primary hypertension most children have secondary hypertension.


Some of the common causes of hypertension in children are

  • Renal or kidney disease (abnormalities of the kidney or the blood vessels supplying the kidney are commonest causes of hypertension in children)
  • Cardiovascular disease (coarctation of the aorta is the commonest cardiovascular cause of high blood pressure in children).
  • disorders of the endocrine system or
  • Blood vessel abnormalities.

Children can also develop essential or primary hypertension.


Do pediatricians pick up hypertension in their patients?


Many times pediatricians may miss hypertension in children as there is no one single number like 120/80 mmHg above which it is called hypertension like in adults. Several factors decide if a certain blood pressure reading is normal or elevated like---the age of the child, height and weight of the child. These are used to determine if a child has an elevated blood pressure.


Hypertension in children in more likely to diagnosed if

  • he or she is overweight and obese,
  • has a reading above 120/80 mmHg
  • there is a family history of cardiovascular disease
  • the child has cardiovascular disease


What are the guidelines for screening for hypertension?

  • Blood pressure should be measured in all children three years of age or older when they go for their yearly check up.
  • Children under three years need blood pressure measurement at each visit if there is a history of prematurity, low birth weight, congenital heart disease or kidney disease

Blood pressure should be measured at least a three different occasions if a reading is high. This is done to determine if it’s a truly sustained elevation due to hypertension or a false high reading as the blood pressure can vary.


What should parents look for?


If your child has symptoms like bloody nose, headache, nausea and vomiting consult a pediatrician to know if these may be related to hypertension. But like adults most children with hypertension have no symptoms. Parents are usually taken by surprise when their child is diagnosed with high blood pressure. Many parents tend to ignore high blood pressure if the child is healthy seems to be doing fine.


How do we treat hypertension in children?


Early and appropriate treatment of hypertension is essential in children as well.

  • Encourage your child to eat more fruits, vegetable and whole grain products. Prefer use of low fat dairy products,
  • If your child is obese try to bring his or her weight to the weight suitable for age.
  • Limit your child’s salt intake and avoid fast food.
  • Encourage your child to have at least 30 minutes of activity daily and limit sedentary activities like watching TV, computer games to less than 2 hours a day...