High Blood Pressure in Children
The cause of high blood pressure will depend on type:
- Essential (or primary)—The cause is not known.
- Secondary—Another illness is causing the problem.
Things that may increase the risk of essential high blood pressure are:
- Diet high in salt
- High blood pressure in family
Things that may increase the risk of secondary high blood pressure are:
- Sleep apnea
- Hyperlipidemia (high level of fats in the blood)
- Kidney disease
- Vascular disease
- Endocrine disease
- Certain medicine (prescription and over-the-counter)
- Drug use
High blood pressure will often not cause any symptoms. Some children may:
- Have a headache
- Feel dizzy
- Have vision problems
- Feel tired
Normal blood pressure in children is different from adults. It will also vary by gender, age, and height. The range of normal blood pressure will change as the child grows.
Blood pressure is measured at least once per year after 3 years of age. A chart will show what a healthy blood pressure range based on child’s gender, age, and height. A high blood pressure needs to happen on more than 1 measurement to be diagnosed. The doctor may also ask that a measurement be done at home. This will rule out normal increased blood pressure due to anxiety at a doctor's office.
Other tests may be done to look for a cause.
The treatment plan will be based on the cause. Treating related conditions may return blood pressure to normal.
Steps that may treat essential high blood pressure or manage secondary high blood pressure are:
- A healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Salt may also need to be tracked or lowered.
- Weight loss for children who are overweight. A doctor or dietitian can help to make a safe plan.
- Regular physical activity. This includes sport, play, and less screen time.
Some blood pressure may not be lowered by above changes. Medicine may then be needed. Types of blood pressure medicine are:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)
- Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
- Calcium channel blockers
It is important to treat high blood pressure. It can prevent serious health issues in adulthood.
Healthy habits can help prevent some types of high blood pressure:
- Encourage a healthy diet. It should be rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Talk to the doctor about your child's weight. Ask if any steps should be taken.
- Encourage physical activity.
- Be a good role model for your child. Eat healthy food. Find physical activity for the whole family to do. This can be as simple as a walk after dinner.
- Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen. This includes watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer. Aim for less than 2 hours in front of a screen per day.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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