More children and teens will be diagnosed with high blood pressure, experts have warned after new studies revealed 3.5 percent of American youths have it.
Experts had previously thought an estimated one to two percent of children and teens suffered from the disease.
High blood pressure is a ‘silent’ condition that has little to no symptoms depending on the person, but it could lead to obesity and other organ problems such as heart disease.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines for pediatricians to help with early detection and reduce the potential risk in patients who are experiencing problems with their blood pressure.
High blood pressure is in an estimated 3.5 percent of children and teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends early detection and lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk. High blood pressure can lead to future heart, brain and kidney problems
‘Untreated, we believe that will high blood pressure in a child will lead to high blood pressure when that child becomes an adult, so that would potentially lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life,’ said Dr Joseph Flynn, who co-chaired the subcommittee, to CNN.
The AAP convened a 20-person committee to come up with new guidelines for how to treat pediatric hypertension, which has increased since 1988.
The guidelines were last updated in 2004.
The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for pediatricians to help lower blood pressure
- Perform routine blood pressure measurements only at annual preventive care visits
- Follow a simpler screening table that identifies blood pressures needing further evaluation
- Follow a simplified blood pressure classification for adolescents age 13 or older that aligns with forthcoming guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology
- Use 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring to more exactly diagnose hypertension
- Start blood pressure-lowering medications if lifestyle changes fail to reduce the blood pressure, or if the child has another condition like diabetes or kidney disease
These new recommendations should help the growing problem of pediatric hypertension.
‘If there is diagnosis of hypertension, there are many ways we can treat it,’ said Dr David Kaelber, co-chair of the AAP Subcommittee on Screening and Management of High Blood Pressure in Children, which developed the report. ‘But because the symptoms are silent, the condition is often overlooked.’
The guidelines focus on the diagnosis, evaluation and initial management of abnormal blood pressures in children and teens.
This included new blood pressure tables based on normal-weight children.
The previous tables were based on overweight and obese children, which experts said didn’t give accurate guidelines.
‘High blood pressure levels tend to carry into adulthood, raising the risks for cardiovascular disease and other problems, said Dr Flynn. ‘By catching the condition early, we are able to work with the family to manage it, whether that’s through lifestyle changes, medication or a combination of treatments.’
If hypertension is left untreated, it can cause damaging effects on organs in the body such as the heart, brain and kidneys.
The first-line treatment remains lifestyle changes because there is a high correlation between hypertension and obesity.
‘These guidelines offer a renewed opportunity for pediatricians to identify and address this important – and often unrecognized – chronic disease in our patients,’ Dr. Kaelber said. ‘The easy part was developing the new guidelines.
‘Now we begin the harder work of implementing them to help children and adolescents.’