29 Sep 2017

Children with Adult Problems

Does your child spend a lot of time sitting down, without running or exercising?  Do they complain about being exhausted all the time? Do they eat well? Physicians are warning families about certain lifestyle choices that can trigger adult illnesses such as hypertension in children. 

Can Children Have Hypertension?

The American Pediatric Association (AAP) recently warned us about the lifestyles of children today. They reported that obesity, spending too much time sitting in front of screens and bad eating habits are causing an increase in cases of arterial hypertension in children and adolescents.

In America, over the last two decades, the incidence of hypertension in children has gone up. Frequently, this disease is not diagnosed or treated. In the United States, researchers estimate that around 3.5% of all children and adolescents suffer from this illness. The problem is worse among Hispanic children, with higher rates for adolescents than for younger children. In a study published in May, researchers measured the arterial pressure of over 21,000 adolescents, along with their height and weight to determine their body mass index (BMI) in 27 areas of Houston between 2000 and 2015.  On three separate occasions, three readings were collected to identify students between 10 and 19 years old, with constant hypertension.

In Latin America, numerous studies have found a high incidence of arterial hypertension among children and adolescents, with growth delay due to bad nutrition and obesity. In addition, the rising levels of childhood obesity in Latin American countries have become an important risk. 

As parents, you must be aware of the impact that a lack of physical activity has on your children’s health. If they stay home all the time and spend long periods talking on the phone, playing with computers or videogames, added to a poor diet, they will have a higher risk of suffering from obesity and metabolic syndromes.

Treatment and Prevention

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be controlled through a combination of changes in diet and medication. It is important that pediatricians monitor hypertension in children regularly and that parents carefully follow their physician’s advice regarding treatment. 

If the main cause of hypertension is obesity, the first step will be to focus on weight loss. This will not only decrease blood pressure but it will also provide many other health benefits. In addition, the physician may recommend increasing their daily exercise and limiting the amount of salt in their diet. 

The Importance of Checking Blood Pressure

You are probably aware that when you measure blood pressure two numbers appear. This is because the term blood pressure refers to two different measurements:

When measuring blood pressure in children, levels are dependent on factors such as age, gender and height. The following is a reference table with normal blood pressure levels according to age.


Primary or Secondary Hypertension?

Just like in adults, childhood hypertension may be primary or secondary. What does this mean?

Primary hypertension or essential, which is the most frequent, is one that develops as a result of factors related to lifestyle such as:

Secondary childhood hypertension is produced by a series of diseases such as chronic renal insufficiency which manifests with high blood pressure. Also, family history has a lot of influence.  

In addition, blood pressure seems to have a direct correlation with birthweight. It appears that the lower the birthweight the higher the blood pressure. 

Which are common symptoms?

Children with high blood pressure frequently complain of:


According to the new report of the American Academy of Pediatrics, childhood hypertension is present when the average of the systolic and/or diastolic pressure is greater or equal to the 95th percentile for age, gender and size in three or more occasions.  

If your child is diagnosed with high blood pressure, the pediatrician will order additional tests to check if it is causing an underlying medical problem. These tests include urine and blood tests. If no other medical problem is found the diagnosis will be essential hypertension.


Every child should have routine medical checkups. Problems related to hypertension are the main cause of cardiovascular disease in adults. By monitoring blood pressure at an early age and intervening early if needed, long term health challenges can be avoided.

A diet with less fats and more fruits and vegetables, the right amount of salt, physical activity are the basis for the prevention of hypertension.  

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