How do I know if my child has high blood pressure? — At your child’s regular checkup, your doctor or nurse will check your child’s blood pressure. He or she will compare your child’s blood pressure to the blood pressure of other children of the same age, sex, and height. If your child’s blood pressure is much greater than the blood pressure of other children of the same age, sex, and height, your doctor or nurse will check it again on one or more other days.
Children have high blood pressure if their blood pressure is much greater than that of other children on 3 or more different days. Another word for high blood pressure is “hypertension.”
Some children have a condition called “pre-hypertension.” These children have blood pressure that is greater than normal, but is not yet high blood pressure.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure? — High blood pressure does not usually cause any symptoms.
Why does my child have high blood pressure? — Sometimes, high blood pressure is caused by a medical condition. Other times, there is no known cause. High blood pressure can run in families.
Your doctor or nurse will want to figure out if a medical condition is causing your child’s high blood pressure. He or she will talk with you and do an exam. During the exam, he or she will check the blood pressure in your child’s arms and legs. Your doctor or nurse might also do:
●Ultrasounds of the heart and kidneys, or other imaging tests – Imaging tests can create pictures of the inside of the body.
Why does high blood pressure need to be treated? — High blood pressure needs to be treated, because it can lead to future problems.
●Children with high blood pressure can have high blood pressure as adults. Adults with high blood pressure have a greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
●A few children with very high blood pressure can have seizures or heart failure. Heart failure is a type of heart problem in which the heart cannot pump normally.
The goal of treatment is to reduce your child’s high blood pressure until it is at a normal level.
How is high blood pressure treated? — First, doctors treat any medical conditions that might be causing the high blood pressure.
But treating the cause does not always reduce high blood pressure. Or there might not be a known cause. In these cases, high blood pressure is treated with:
What lifestyle changes might be part of treatment? — Lifestyle changes that might be part of treatment include:
●Losing weight (if your child is overweight) – Your doctor or nurse might recommend that you work with a “nutritionist.” A nutritionist is an expert on food and eating.
●Diet changes, such as eating healthier foods or reducing the amount of salt in your child’s food. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods.
●Getting regular exercise – Most children should get “aerobic” exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Aerobic exercise includes activities such as walking, running, swimming, or biking. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if there are activities your child should not do.
●Not spending a lot of time sitting, watching TV, or playing computer games
●Not smoking or drinking alcohol – Doctors also recommend that family members not smoke. Children who breathe in smoke can get heart problems.
What medicines might be part of treatment? — Doctors can use different types of medicines to treat high blood pressure. The medicines work in different ways and can have different side effects. Your doctor will work with you to find the medicine that is right for your child.
When do I follow up with my doctor or nurse? — Your doctor or nurse will follow up with you and your child on a regular basis. On each visit, he or she will check your child’s blood pressure. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any problems with treatment.