Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. It's not just a disease for the middle-aged and elderly. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.
The American Heart Association recommends that all children have yearly blood pressure measurements. Detecting high blood pressure early will improve a child's health.
What is considered "normal" blood pressure in children?
When it comes to blood pressure in children, "normal" is relative. It depends on three factors:
Your child's doctor can tell you what's right for your child, because "normal" is a complicated calculation based on these factors.
What leads to HBP in children?
- Diseases including heart and kidney disease
Certain diseases can cause high blood pressure in children as well as adults. As with all types of secondary hypertension, once the underlying problem is fixed, blood pressure usually returns to normal.
- Some medications
Certain medicines can cause high blood pressure, but when they're discontinued, blood pressure usually returns to normal. This is another example of secondary hypertension.
- Contributing factors
In a lot of cases, doctors cannot determine the direct cause of HBP in the child. This type of HBP is known as primary or "essential" hypertension. Even though the exact cause is not diagnosed, doctors realize a variety of factors can contribute to the disease, including:
What is the treatment for children with high blood pressure?
As in adults, HBP in children is typically managed with lifestyle changes, including:
Children and teens should also be taught the dangers of tobacco use and protected from secondhand smoke. While cigarettes aren't directly related to high blood pressure, they do cause a number of health risks. Parents should set a good example by not smoking and educating their children about the hazards of smoking.
The doctor may also prescribe medication if an appropriate diet and regular physical activity don't bring the high blood pressure under control.
Give your kids the best possible start by helping them develop heart-healthy habits early.
A note about adolescents and teenagers
Age, body size and the degree of sexual maturation determine blood pressure levels in adolescence. Heavier and more sexually mature teenagers tend to have higher blood pressure.
According to research, teenagers who are obese and have high blood pressure may develop thicker arteries by age 30. Fatty buildups in artery walls can lead to a variety of health problems including heart disease and stroke. To help manage children's health risks, parents should partner with the family doctor to:
- Help boys and girls manage their own weight and make healthy choices as adolescents
- Discover ways to support and build new habits if the child is already overweight
Learn more about preventing and managing childhood obesity.
This content was last reviewed on 04/04/2012.