Kansas City,
07:54 AM

American Heart Association: High blood pressure can start in childhood – but so can prevention

The term "high blood pressure" rarely conjures images of young, playful children.

But the condition doesn't just affect adults. In children, it can be caused by obesity, kidney disease, heart abnormalities or other factors. Hypertension at such a young age puts kids at risk for heart disease and stroke later in life.

"With obesity on the rise, we do see quite a few kids with high blood pressure," said Dr. Geetha Raghuveer, pediatric cardiologist at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. "It's underrecognized. It's not often flagged in the pediatrician office because it is not always checked."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 781,000 children ages 12 to 17 have high blood pressure based on guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, with the condition being most common among kids who are obese.

"The most important reason it should be measured in children is to make sure you're not missing any heart or kidney problems," she said. "Those can be quite asymptomatic."

Parents should serve fruits and vegetables as snacks and stay away from sodium – a major culprit when it comes to hypertension. Nearly 9 in 10 U.S. children eat too much sodium, according to the CDC.

The AAP guidelines recommend doctors prescribe blood pressure medications if lifestyle changes do not work, or if the child has another underlying condition. But that's rare. Only about 1% of kids with hypertension are prescribed blood pressure-lowering medications.


Read the full story via the American Heart Association

Learn more about the Ward Family Heart Center at Children's Mercy