True or False: Kids Can Have High Blood Pressure

Robin Kremsdorf, MD

TRUE.  When we think of high blood pressure, we typically don’t think of children. The fact is, children can have high blood pressure just like adults.

Most children with high blood pressure have no symptoms. That is why the pediatrician will measure blood pressure at each check-up.

Unfortunately, more than half of the children who have high blood pressure when checked at the pediatrician’s office may have what is called “White Coat Hypertension.”  That means their blood pressure is only high in the medical office, not when they are doing their normal activities. It is the result of the anxiety the child feels being in the medical setting.

If a child has high blood pressure measured at a check-up, it is often recommended that the child have “Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring.” This small machine is worn for 24 hours and regularly measures the child’s blood pressure. This helps to determine if their blood pressure is only high in the medical setting, or high all the time.

Causes of high blood pressure

There are several known causes for high blood pressure in children. Those include:

  • kidney disease
  • blood vessel malformation
  • hormone alterations
  • genetics
  • stress
  • obesity
  • commonly-used medications, including stimulant medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Children who were born prematurely or had a long NICU stay are at higher risk for hypertension than other children. Sometimes, however, there may be no cause at all.

Treatment

Because blood pressure is an important part of a person’s overall health, it is important to manage it when it is high. Depending on the cause, hypertension might be managed with lifestyle changes, procedures, or medication. There are several blood pressure medications that are safe and effective for children to take.

Also, all children with hypertension are encouraged to get more exercise and eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Of course, we encourage all children to do this too, as it promotes healthy growth and development.

While having a child with high blood pressure can sound frightening to a parent, the important thing is that it is diagnosed and treated. Children with hypertension can usually participate in any sport that they choose, although for some sports children may need to control their blood pressure with medication before they are eligible to play.

If you are concerned about high blood pressure and your child, speak with your pediatrician. If your child has hypertension, we can help. Visit our website for more information. 

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