Can your kids have high blood pressure?
Many people are aware of the health risks of hypertension (high blood pressure) in adults, but what about in children? Can children also suffer from hypertension?
The answer is a definitive “yes.” In fact, the incidence of hypertension in children has been increasing over the last two decades, according to a past study in the journal Pediatrics.
Hypertension in children, as in adults, usually appears without symptoms, unless the elevation in blood pressure is severe. The only way to know if your child has high blood pressure is to have it checked at the doctor’s office. After your child turns three, that should become a regular part of every doctor’s visit.
Hypertension can be a sign of serious kidney disease or heart disease. A child can get high blood pressure from being overweight or taking in too much salt. High blood pressure tends to run in families, and parents with hypertension are more likely to have children with either hypertension or blood pressure running at the upper limits of normal.
What can you do to lower your child’s blood pressure?
- Limiting salt (sodium) in the diet.
- Keep weight within normal range
- Get plenty of exercise
For all but the most severe hypertension, I typically ask children and their parents to work on lifestyle changes for at least three to six months before considering medicine to lower blood pressure.
Limiting sodium in your child’s diet may seem like an easy task, but many foods—particularly fast foods and processed foods—have large amounts of salt. Surprisingly, high levels of salt also show up in unexpected foods, such as cheese, vegetable juice, pasta sauce and salad dressings.
Some of my young patients with hypertension start eating more salads to improve their diet, but when they add salad dressings, they are actually unknowingly increasing their daily salt intake!
Always read the nutritional labels on foods and condiments. Using spices, such as pepper, paprika, oregano and curry, is a good way to cut down on sodium while still enjoying tasty food.
About the Author
Dr. Richard Kaplan is a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. He also specializes in nephrology, a branch of medicine that deals with the function and diseases of the kidneys. He is a strong proponent of health education and prevention.