High blood pressure in children
We usually think high blood pressure is for adults. However this condition can occur even in infancy. Blood pressure usual refers to 2 numbers. These are :
systolic blood pressure : This is the highest pressure reached in the arteries as the heart pumps blood out for circulation through the body
diastolic blood pressure : This is the much lower blood pressure that occurs in the arteries when the heart relaxes to take blood in between beats.
The doctor will use charts based on your child’s sex, height and blood pressure numbers to determine whether the child has high blood pressure or not.
What causes high blood pressure in children ?
High blood pressure in younger kids is usually due to health conditions such as kidney disease, heart defects , genetic disease or hormonal disorders. In older children, it is mainly due to obesity or being overweight.
Who is at risk ?
Risk factors for high blood pressure in children depends on underlying health conditions, lifestyle and genetics.
Primary (essential) hypertension : This is high blood pressure that occurs on it’s own with no underlying medical condition. Risk factors include
- family history of high blood pressure
- being obese or overweight
- high cholesterol and triglycerides
- type 2 diabetes
Secondary hypertension : This is high blood pressure caused by an underlying medical condition such as :
- heart problems
- chronic kidney disease
- sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- adrenal disorders
What are the signs of high blood pressure in children ?
This condition is usually discovered when your child’s blood pressure is measured during a routine physical examination. It may not show any physical discomfort. However these symptoms may indicate high blood pressure .
- shortness of breath
- visual disturbances
How is it diagnosed ?
If your child’s blood pressure is high, the doctor will order more test to find out the underlying cause. These include blood and urine tests as well as an X-ray to examine blood supply to the kidney. If no cause is found, the child will be diagnosed with essential hypertension .
How can i manage high blood pressure in my child ?
If high blood pressure is caused by obesity, the first step will be for your child to lose weight. Your pediatrician will closely monitor this.
You will also need to limit salt in your child’s diet. Restriction on salty food and giving up on table salt can also help. Check labels of food before eating. Most processed and canned foods are high in salt.
Your child’s doctor may also recommend engaging your child in physical activity. Getting the child active can regulate blood pressure.
Depending on how high the blood pressure is, your child will be referred to a pediatric nephrologist (kidney specialist) or pediatric cardiologist ( heart specialist ). If your child’s condition gets worse, it may be treated with medications as well as diet and exercises.
It is important to continue treatment according to the doctor’s recommendation if your child’s blood pressure is brought under control with diet or medication. The doctor may also recommend diet changes.
How can childhood high blood pressure be prevented ?
Early detection is the key. Uncontrolled hypertension can cause damage to organs such as kidney, heart and brain.
It is now recommend that all children have their blood pressure checked beginning from age 3 and sooner for those at risk. These include :
Overweight children are at increased risk of hypertension so it is important to watch your child’s caloric intake. It is also important that the child stays active.
High blood pressure in children. Mayo Foundation. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure-in-children/basics/definition/con-20033799. Accessed February 18, 2016
High blood pressure in children. WebMD.http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-in-children. Accessed February 18, 2016