High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often considered an adult health problem. But this serious condition is no longer adults-only.
“The number of children with high blood pressure is rising,” says Susan Mendley, MD, head of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Left unchecked, high blood pressure can result in lifelong health complications including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Fortunately, small changes now can turn this trend around.”
For adults, 120/80 or lower is normal blood pressure and 140/90 or greater is high blood pressure. But for children, high blood pressure is determined differently.
“Children are not little adults,” says Dr. Mendley. “High blood pressure for children is defined as a blood pressure reading greater than the 95th percentile for their age, height and gender.”
It’s estimated that about 2 million kids in the U.S. have high blood pressure, and many of those children-and their parents- don’t know it.* That’s because high blood pressure, also known as the “silent killer,” has no symptoms. However, childhood high blood pressure often has a common clue: obesity.
A growing number of children are eating more, exercising less and weight in above their ideal weight range. As a result, obesity rates have been rising in the U.S. for the past two decades.**
“Obesity is one of the highest predictors of high blood pressure in children,” says Dr. Mendley. “It’s difficult for parents to tell on their own if their child has health risks related to weight.”
The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends screening children for high blood pressure annually starting at age 3. “It’s really important to keep up with your child’s annual checkup,” Dr. Mendley says. “Don’t wait until there is a problem. There are many small things that parents can do to prevent big problems later.”
To make an appointment with Dr. Mendley or the Nephrology team call 410-328-6749 or visit umm.edu/PediatricNephrology
*Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association
**Source: Centers for Disease control and Prevention