High blood pressure doesn’t only affect adults – alarmingly, children, even babies can suffer from it. Unfortunately, as the epidemic of obesity amongst children rises, high blood pressure rates are also on the increase, especially amongst American children.
There are two types of high blood pressure (or hypertension): primary (or essential) and secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension is the name given to high blood pressure that has no known cause. Usually, over 90% of high blood pressure cases are primary.
If high blood pressure is caused due to the patient suffering from another medical condition, then this is called secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension in children is often linked to a family history of blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. Often, it is the case that young children and adolescents who suffer from primary hypertension tend to be overweight.
Studies have clearly shown that cases of high blood pressure in young children increase with increasing body mass index (BMI). In fact, high blood pressure is found in roughly 30 % of children who are overweight.
Secondary hypertension occurs more commonly in children than in adults. Where possible, the underlying disorder which may be a factor in contributing towards the elevated blood pressure should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Studies have shown that kidney diseases account for approximately 80% of the cases of high blood pressure in children.
High blood pressure in childhood also poses an increased risk of adverse outcomes such as seizures and congestive heart failures.
Symptoms of high blood pressure in young children could be factors such as excessive crying, inability to gain weight, poor feeding habits, irritability – though these manifest in youngsters less than 3 years old.
Slightly older children may exhibit signs such as dizziness, vomiting, headaches and palpitations. The only way to properly detect high blood pressures in children is by taking a blood pressure reading.
Mild cases of hypertension can be treated by changing diet and introducing more exercise into a child’s routine. Weight reduction will result in a decrease in blood pressure reading. Introducing a low salt and low fat diet will aid this as will a good exercise routine.
In cases of chronic hypertension, oral medicines are usually the preferred method of treatment though this does depend on the cause of hypertension.
Whatever method is prescribed, it is vital that high blood pressure is treated and controlled as failure to do so in childhood will only lead to problems such as strokes, cardiovascular damage, renal failure and retinopathy in later life.