An estimated 3.5 percent of children and teens in the U.S. have already been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure,) but that number will likely increase because of new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP).
"If there is diagnosis of hypertension, there are many ways we can treat it," Dr. David Kaelber, co-chair of the AAP Subcommittee on Screening and Management of High Blood Pressure in Children, which developed the report, said in a statement. "But because the symptoms are silent, the condition is often overlooked."
The new recommendations are an update to the guidelines released in 2004 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The previous guidelines were based on blood pressure values for overweight or obese children, who are at a higher risk for hypertension, only. The new blood pressure tables are based on normal-weight children. Because of that change, the new blood pressure values are lower than they were before and allow for a more exact classification of blood pressure according to the patient's weight.
"Prevention and early detection are key," said Dr. Joseph Flynn, who co-chaired the subcommittee. "High blood pressure levels tend to carry into adulthood, raising the risks for cardiovascular disease and other problems. 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.”
When high blood pressure is left untreated, it can have devastating effects on the body, including damage to the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes.
Because high blood pressure doesn’t present any symptoms, having your child’s blood pressure checked is the only way to know if it is higher than it should be.
Most physicians prefer not to start children on blood pressure lowering medications and will begin treatment by recommending life style changes. However, if those changes do not work or the child has diabetes, kidney disease or a family history of high blood pressure, medications may be started immediately.
Lifestyle changes, including improved diet and increased physical activity, should still be the first line of defense against obesity and high blood pressure, the guidelines recommend.
"These guidelines offer a renewed opportunity for pediatricians to identify and address this important – and often unrecognized – chronic disease in our patients," Kaelber said. "The easy part was developing the new guidelines. Now we begin the harder work of implementing them to help children and adolescents."
The report from the AAP calls on pediatricians to perform routine blood pressure checks at all annual visits.
Story source: Ashley Welch, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-children-to-be-diagnosed-with-high-blood-pressure-under-new-guidelines/