PROVIDENCE, RI – Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure, also called HBP or hypertension. It’s not just a disease for the middle-aged and elderly. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.
High Blood Pressure in children can lead to heart and kidney disease. There are also diseases which can cause high blood pressure in children as well as adults. As with secondary hypertension, once the problem is resolved, blood pressure usually returns to normal.
When it comes to blood pressure in children, “normal” is relative. It depends on three factors: gender, age and height. Your child’s doctor can tell you what’s right for your child, because “normal” is a complicated calculation based on these factors.
What leads to HBP in children? There may be many factors. These can include:
- Diseases including heart and kidney disease
- Some medications
- Family history
- Excess weight or obesity
- Race, particularly African-Americans are at increased risk
Visiting your pediatrician to discuss treatment options is vital in controlling HBP. As in adults, HBP in children is typically managed with lifestyle changes, including:
- Enjoying a heart-healthy diet
- Participating in regular physical activity
- Managing weight
The doctor may also prescribe medication if an appropriate diet and regular physical activity don’t bring the high blood pressure under control.
Like the rest of the nation, Rhode Island has a childhood obesity problem. The state ranks second highest in the country for obesity among low-income children ages two- to four-years-old. Recent statistics report that 11% of Rhode Island high school students are obese, with an additional 16% reported as being overweight. Part of the blame goes to the steep decline over the past few decades in physical activity among children. The American Heart Association recommends children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, yet few meet that challenge. Among Rhode Island high school students, only 44 percent reported in 2015 that they were physically active five or more days per week.
“As a Mom and a certified fitness instructor, I know the how important it is to lead by example and help my sons and daughter to be active every day, and eat a balanced diet to ensure a healthy life,” said Laurie Stephenson, Board Member of the American Heart Association in Rhode Island.
“Together, we enjoy being active on Rhode Island’s beaches. Weather running the beach, swimming, or even playing Frisbee we keep moving. My children like to explore the seasonal local fruits and vegetables and barbecuing with friends! I would like to encourage all parents to show their kids how easy it is to live heart-healthy.”
Children and teens should also be taught the dangers of tobacco use and protected from secondhand smoke. While cigarettes aren’t directly related to high blood pressure, they do cause a number of health risks. Parents should set a good example by not smoking and educating their children about the hazards of smoking.
Give your kids the best possible start by helping them develop heart-healthy habits early. Learn more about preventing and managing childhood obesity at heart.org/kids. Get involved with the American Heart Association’s local events and programs in Southern New England by visiting www.heart.org/sne.
Connect with us on social media with #GetHealthyRI and #HealthyKidsRI.