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High Blood Pressure: Kids Can Have It, Too

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects about one in three adults in the U.S. But, this health problem doesn’t just affect adults.

The number of kids with high blood pressure is going up. This may be because of the growing number of kids who are overweight and obese (very overweight).

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is also the main risk factor for stroke. Kids with high blood pressure have a greater risk for high blood pressure as adults. High blood pressure in childhood is also linked with getting hardened arteries (atherosclerosis) in early adulthood.

Blood pressure checkups

Systolic pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. This number is the pressure in arteries when the heart contracts. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number in a blood pressure reading. This is the pressure in the arteries between heart beats, when the heart relaxes.

Experts recommend that kids ages 3 and older have their blood pressure checked each time they have regular checkups. Normal blood pressure in kids depends on their gender, age, and height.

Treatment for kids

Parents and health care providers should urge kids with high blood pressure to make lifestyle changes. This includes losing weight, exercising more, and eating a healthier diet. A health care provider may also give a child medicine to help control blood pressure.

Regular exercise helps control weight and may keep blood pressure in check. Regular exercise means 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days. Activities that involve sitting should be limited to less than two hours a day.

A healthy diet for a child with high blood pressure should include:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits

  • Fiber  

  • Nonfat milk, cheese, and other dairy products

  • Very little salt