Kids can have hypertension too


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Claudia Boyd-Barrett

posted in Parenting

Hypertension may sound like a grownup disease, but increasingly it’s a problem for kids too. That’s why new guidelines issued this week by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) aim to help doctors spot and treat the disease in children.

The AAP wants healthcare providers to routinely check children’s blood pressure during annual checkups starting at age 3. They’ve also provided doctors with updated measurement charts that help identify abnormally high blood pressure - another name for hypertension – in children of all weight ranges. Until now, doctors had focused on identifying hypertension in overweight and obese kids because these children are at greater risk for the disease. But normal-weight kids can also have high blood pressure.

What does this mean for you? First, your child will probably get his blood pressure checked when he visits the doctor if that isn’t happening already, assuming he’s age 3 or older. And if he does have high blood pressure, there’s a greater chance it will be detected and treated.


An estimated 3.5 percent of kids and teens suffer from high blood pressure, about double the number of a couple of decades ago. Increases in childhood obesity may be contributing to the problem, although conditions such as kidney disease and genetic heart abnormalities can also cause hypertension in kids. Often, children with high blood pressure don't show any symptoms.

Treating hypertension early helps prevent kids from developing heart disease later in life. Usually, doctors will start by recommending lifestyle changes such as improved diet and more exercise. But sometimes children need to take medications too.

To ensure your child gets screened for hypertension, make sure his next medical checkup includes a blood pressure check.

What do you think of the new guidelines? What more could be done to help address the problem of high blood pressure in children?

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