High Blood Pressure in Children

High blood pressure doesn’t only affect adults – alarmingly, children, even babies can suffer from it. Unfortunately, as the epidemic of obesity amongst children rises, high blood pressure rates are also on the increase, especially amongst American children.

There are two types of high blood pressure (or hypertension): primary (or essential) and secondary hypertension.

Primary hypertension is the name given to high blood pressure that has no known cause. Usually, over 90% of high blood pressure cases are primary.

If high blood pressure is caused due to the patient suffering from another medical condition, then this is called secondary hypertension.

Primary hypertension in children is often linked to a family history of blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. Often, it is the case that young children and adolescents who suffer from primary hypertension tend to be overweight.

Studies have clearly shown that cases of high blood pressure in young children increase with increasing body mass index (BMI). In fact, high blood pressure is found in roughly 30 % of children who are overweight.

Secondary hypertension occurs more commonly in children than in adults.

Types of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) affects up to 1 in 4 adults in the USA and this fact alone makes it a major public health problem.

There are two types of high blood pressure:

    Primary hypertension
    Secondary hypertension

Primary hypertension is more common and has several factors which could contribute to it. It accounts for 95% of hypertension.
Secondary hypertension is not as common and accounts for 5% of hypertension cases. Secondary hypertension occurs when there is a malfunction in one of the body’s organs or systems and as a result of this the blood pressure increases.

Primary (or essential) hypertension can be attributed to a variety of factors. Roughly 30% of cases can be attributed to genetic factors. In the US alone, high blood pressure affects more African Americans than it does Asians or Caucasians. Further, you are twice as likely to suffer from high blood pressure if either one, or both, of your parents had it.

For the most part, the majority of patients suffering from primary hypertension appear to have a particular abnormality of the arteries in that they have an increased stiffness or resistance in the arteries that are furthest away from the heart (peripheral arteries).

High Blood Pressure in Overweight People

High blood pressure can increase the risk of cardiovascular related disease, in overweight people, according to a report in the Journal of American Heart Association.

The findings were made by researchers in France, who studied 104,236 French women and 139,562 French men over a period of approximately 14 years. The average woman’s age was 41 and the man’s average age was 43. The group were given routine checkups on their blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels, from about the period 1972–1988.

Approximately 5% of each group were considered to be obese: 42% of the men and 21% of women were considered to be overweight. During the 14 years, 2,949 men and 929 women died from heart related diseases.

Among the findings:

Overweight subjects who also had high blood pressure were twice as likely to have a fatal heart attack or stroke, than those people who were overweight but had normal blood pressure.

Overweight men with high blood pressure and diabetes were 3 times more likely to increase the risk of cardiovascular death; whereas women with the same symptoms were 4 times more likely to increase the risk, compared to men and women of normal weight and blood pressure.

Women and High Blood Pressure

Three out of four women in the western world have high blood pressure and know they have it. Yet fewer than one in three are controlling their blood pressure.

Although many pregnant women with high blood pressure have healthy babies without serious problems, high blood pressure can be dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. Women with pre-existing, or chronic, high blood pressure are more likely to have certain complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure.

However, some women develop high blood pressure while they are pregnant (often called gestational hypertension).

The effects of high blood pressure during pregnancy can range from mild to severe. High blood pressure can harm the mother’s kidneys and other organs, and it can cause low birth weight and early delivery. In the most serious cases, the mother develops pre-eclampsia – or “toxaemia of pregnancy” – which can threaten the lives of both the mother and the foetus.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that typically starts after the 20th week of pregnancy and is related to increased blood pressure and protein in the mother’s urine (as a result of kidney problems). Pre-eclampsia affects the placenta, and it can affect the mother’s kidney, liver, and brain. When pre-eclampsia causes seizures, the condition is known as eclampsia – and this is the second leading cause of maternal death in the western world.

High Blood Pressure Prevention

High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, dementia, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and, blindness.

The good news is, treatment can control high blood pressure.

Lifestyle changes can prevent and control high blood pressure. These include :

    Lose weight if overweight (losing even 10 lbs can help).
    Increase physical activity (walking 30 minutes per day can help).
    Follow a healthy eating plan, that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods.
    Choose and prepare foods with less salt and sodium.
    Drink caffeine beverages in moderation.
    Drink alcoholic beverages, drinking in moderation.
    Smoke in moderation, or, better yet, quit.

Tips for reducing sodium in your diet:

    Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned “with no salt added” vegetables.
    Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed types.
    Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table.
    Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
    Choose “convenience” foods that are lower in sodium. Cut back on frozen dinners, pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings — these often have a lot of sodium.

Blood Pressure Diagnosis and Measurement

You can find out if you have high blood pressure by having your blood pressure checked regularly. Most doctors diagnose a person with high blood pressure on the basis of two or more readings, taken on several occasions. A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high blood pressure.

Some people experience high blood pressure only when they visit the doctor’s office. This condition is called “white-coat hypertension.” If your doctor suspects this, you may be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home or asked to wear a device called an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This device is usually worn for 24 hours and can take blood pressure every 30 minutes. In this section you will learn more about diagnosing high blood pressure.

High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to be tested for it.

A blood pressure test is quick and easy. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two numbers – the systolic pressure “over” the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is “120 over 80”.

High Blood Pressure – Risk Factors

Risk factors are behaviours or conditions that can increase your chances of developing a disease. For example, high blood pressure is a risk factor for:

    heart disease,
    congestive heart failure,
    kidney disease, and,

However, high blood pressure isn’t the only risk factor. For example, there are other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Most can be modified, though some cannot.

The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing disease. So it is important to take steps to prevent or control these risk factors.
The following heart disease and stroke risk factors can be controlled are through changes in life-style and changes in diet:

    High blood pressure (hypertension),
    Abnormal cholesterol,
    Tobacco use,
    Overweight, and,
    Physical inactivity.

Women taking oral contraceptives experience a small but detectable increase in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, usually in the normal range.

The following heart disease and stroke risk factors are beyond your control:
Age – 55 years and older for men, and 65 years or older for women.

Diastolic Blood Pressure

When the heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is always given as two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both are important. The systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is “120 over 80”.

Both of these numbers do not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure. Either one or both can be high for you to have high blood pressure.

The diastolic blood pressure has been and remains, especially for younger people, an important hypertension number.

Research has shown that higher diastolic blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and other serious conditions.

As people become older, especially after the age of 55, the diastolic pressure will begin to decrease, while the systolic blood pressure usually begins to rise and becomes more important.

A rise in systolic blood pressure will also increase the chance for heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and other serious conditions.