Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure:
For example, if a child's blood pressure is 110/70 mmHg, 110 is the systolic blood pressure and 70 is the diastolic blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) means that the pressure inside the arteries is too high. This higher pressure may harm the arteries and cause the heart to work harder.
The systolic or diastolic pressure, or both, may be high.
Many things affect blood pressure. These include:
One high blood pressure reading does not mean that your child has high blood pressure. Your child's healthcare provider will want to check your child's blood pressure over a period of days or weeks. When blood pressure stays high, it may be a problem.
Blood pressure can be primary. This means the cause isn't known. Or it may be secondary. This means it happens with illness or certain lifestyle choices.
Secondary causes of high blood pressure in children and teens include:
Children and teens are more likely to have high blood pressure if they are:
Your child's healthcare provider will diagnose high blood pressure by checking your child's blood pressure. The provider will check blood pressure over several days or weeks before making the diagnosis. Your child's healthcare provider will also:
Your child's provider may also order tests. These may include:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. If your child's healthcare provider has found a secondary cause, such as kidney disease, the disease will be treated. If the provider hasn't found a cause, treatment involves making lifestyle changes. These may include eating a heart-healthy diet that:
Other lifestyle changes may include:
Many children and teens are able to lower their blood pressure with lifestyle changes. But some children may need medicine.
Not all high blood pressure can be prevented. But making heart-healthy lifestyle choices may lower the chance of developing high blood pressure. Help your child:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children and teens (older than 3 years of age) have blood pressure screenings at their yearly well-child visit. Blood pressure should be checked in all children and teens older than 3 years of age at every healthcare encounter if they are obese, are taking medicine known to increase blood pressure, have kidney disease, diabetes, or a history of aortic arch obstruction or coarctation. Normal blood pressure in kids depends on their gender, age, and height.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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