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Home > Health Library > High Blood Pressure in Children
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of the arteries as it moves through the body. High blood pressure happens when the blood is pushing too hard. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension.
Blood pressure readings include two numbers. For example, a child's reading might be 96/57 or "96 over 57."
What is normal and what is high blood pressure depends on your child's age, sex, and height. The numbers will change as your child gets older and grows.
High blood pressure does not have symptoms, but it needs to be treated.
If blood pressure is very high, it can cause serious damage to a child's body, especially the heart and brain. But these serious problems can be prevented by lowering the high blood pressure.
In some cases, doctors can't say exactly what causes high blood pressure. But several things make a child more likely to develop high blood pressure. These include having a family history of high blood pressure and being overweight.
High blood pressure also can be caused by other health problems, such as sleep apnea or heart or kidney problems. Or it can be caused by medicine the child is taking.
Children ages 3 and over often have their blood pressure checked during routine well-child visits and checkups. If your child has a reading of high blood pressure, you may be asked to bring in your child again for another blood pressure check.
Your child's doctor might also have your child wear a portable device to measure blood pressure over 24 hours. This is called ambulatory blood pressure monitoring.
Having high blood pressure can make heart disease more likely. Your doctor may check your child for risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or diabetes. A risk factor is something that makes a disease more likely.
High blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle changes and medicine. If another health problem is causing the high blood pressure, treating the problem usually lowers the blood pressure.
Your child's doctor will likely want you to try lifestyle changes first. Help your child lose weight, if your child is overweight. Eating healthy foods and being physically active are the best ways to do this. Avoid putting your child on a weight-loss diet.
These healthy habits are also the key to preventing high blood pressure.
Medicines are used to treat high blood pressure when lifestyle changes do not work or if blood pressure is very high. Some children may be able to stop taking the medicine after their blood pressure comes down, especially if they are overweight and lose weight. Your doctor can tell you how long your child may need medicine.
It can be hard to remember to help your child take pills when he or she has no symptoms. But blood pressure will go back up if your child does not take the medicine. Make your child's pill schedule as simple as you can. Try to plan a time for your child to take medicine along with something else that happens at that same time every day. This can be something like eating a meal or getting ready for bed. If that is hard to do, you or your child can set a daily alarm as a reminder.
Medicines for high blood pressure can have side effects. Ask your doctor what side effects to look for and what to do if you see them.
Do you have any questions or concerns after reading this information? It's a good idea to write them down and take them to your next doctor visit.
Other Works Consulted
Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents (2011). Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics, 128(Suppl 5): S213–S256.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2013). Screening for primary hypertension in children and adolescents. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspshypechld.htm. Accessed January 11, 2014.
Current as of:
December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope MD - Pediatrics
Current as of: December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics
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