High Blood Pressure in Children (Hypertension)

{SCA} Children, even very young babies, can have high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that all children age 3 and older have yearly blood pressure measurements.

Early detection of high blood pressure will improve health care of children. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke in adulthood.

High blood pressure in children can be caused by other diseases — usually heart or kidney disease. This is called secondary hypertension. If the other disease is successfully treated, blood pressure usually returns to normal. Some medicines can cause high blood pressure, but when they’re discontinued, blood pressure usually returns to normal.

A small number of children have higher blood pressures than others, but researchers don’t know why. These children are said to have primary or essential hypertension.

Children who are overweight usually have higher blood pressure than those who aren’t overweight.

Some children inherit the tendency from one or both parents who have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is more frequent and more severe in families of African Americans than among Caucasians. Researchers don’t fully understand the reasons.

A prescribed special diet and regular physical activity may lower high blood pressure in overweight children. The doctor may also prescribe medication.

What are the classifications of high blood pressure in children?

In childhood, blood pressure normally rises with age.

A child’s sex, age and height are used to determine age-, sex- and height-specific systolic and diastolic blood pressure percentiles. This approach provides information that lets researchers consider different levels of growth in evaluating blood pressure.

It also demonstrates the blood pressure standards that are based on sex, age and height and allows a more precise classification of blood pressure according to body size. More importantly, the approach avoids misclassifying children at the extremes of normal growth.