Understanding About High Blood Pressure in Children

High blood pressure, which also called hypertension, is primarily considered as being an adult condition. Although its exact cause is still unknown, researchers have developed many types of medications that help prevent life-threatening complications of hypertension such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.

Combined with dietary changes and regular exercise, these medications work very well in managing high blood pressure in adults.

High blood pressure in children, however, is a much more complex medical condition that is notoriously difficult to treat. For example, in 95% of adult cases of hypertension, there is no identifiable cause of the disorder. Adults have “essential” hypertension, meaning that it is a stand-alone condition.

High blood pressure in children is known as “secondary” hypertension because in virtually 100% of these cases, the hypertension is directly caused by another medical condition that was previously undiagnosed.

What Causes High Blood Pressure in Children?

High blood pressure in children and young adolescents is a very rare condition. During a routine visit to their pediatrician, children’s “vital signs” are taken by a pediatric nurse; pulse, temperature, heartbeat and blood pressure. A child’s temperature is often elevated due to illness, and a child’s heartbeat may suggest the presence of pneumonia.

Elevated blood pressure may be due to “whitecoat” hypertension: the child may be uncertain and fearful during a doctor’s visit and this could account for the elevated pressure. If this occurs, the child’s blood pressure will again be taken at the end of the visit – in most cases, the child’s blood pressure has returned to normal limits.

However, a consistent finding of high blood pressure in children is considered to be a very serious condition since hypertension among children is so rare. The medical consequences of high blood pressure in children are just as grim as with adult hypertension. Children, also, can suffer stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.

The pediatrician will quickly order a complete medical evaluation of the child that includes laboratory tests of the child’s blood and urine, ultrasound views of the child’s abdomen, cardiac testing, and possibly an MRI to check for aneurisms and constricted arteries in the child’s brain.

Thus, high blood pressure in children is a sure-fire indicator that the child has a serious underlying medical condition such as heart and kidney defects. The child’s hypertension is a result of these conditions, not vice versa as is the case with many adults. The medical condition must be quickly identified and treated to eliminate the child’s hypertension.

How Is High Blood Pressure in Children Treated?

First, the pediatrician will weigh the child to determine is the child is of normal weight for his/her age. If a child is found to be obese, the doctor will recommend changes in the child’s diet that will lower blood pressure. Salt and sugar intake must be dramatically curtailed with an increase in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy protects, fiber and protein from meat, fish and poultry. Losing weight will result in lower blood pressure.

Another treatment for high blood pressure in children is to increase the child’s regular exercise and decrease his/her sedentary lifestyle of sitting around watching TV. Walking, playing sports and swimming not only helps the child lose weight, but results in lower blood pressure.

In treating high blood pressure in children, hypertensive medication is used as a last resort. Medications like Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors are formulated for adults and must be used with extreme caution with children. If high blood pressure in children fails to respond to changes in diet and lifestyle, the pediatrician may have no alternative but to try medication. A very close watch for serious side effects is necessary; if these side effects occur, the medication must be discontinued.