Blood pressure is measured by how forcefully your blood pushes through your artery walls. High blood pressure affects how blood is carried from the heart to the organs and can cause damage to your brain, heart, and kidneys.
While high blood pressure – or hypertension – is usually associated with older adults, 3.5% of children age 18 and under have high blood pressure. Children are considered to have hypertension if their blood pressure is equal to or higher than 95% of other children who are the same age, gender, and height.
Nauman Ahmad, MD, FAAP, and the rest of our expert pediatric team at Pediatrician Specialty Practices understands that receiving a high blood pressure diagnosis for your child might be stressful and even confusing. We offer some insight into what causes high blood pressure and how it’s treated.
Causes and symptoms of high blood pressure
There are two types of high blood pressure: primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension is high blood pressure with no known underlying cause, although it’s more common in children who are overweight or obese.
Secondary hypertension can be caused by any of the following:
- Kidney disease
- Hormone problems
- Blood vessel problems
- Lung problems
- Heart problems
There could also be some medicines that your child is taking that’s causing them to have high blood pressure.
While high blood pressure in children doesn’t usually have symptoms, severe cases can cause:
- Chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
Seek medical attention right away if your child has any of these symptoms.
How your child’s high blood pressure is diagnosed
If your child has a high blood pressure reading, our team asks to monitor them for 24 hours in order to accurately assess what’s going on and determine a diagnosis. During this monitoring period, we perform lab tests to check kidney function, conduct a renal ultrasound with a renal artery Doppler, and order an EKG and an echocardiogram.
How high blood pressure is treated
Typically, the first line of treatment for high blood pressure in children is lifestyle changes. This can be achieved by implementing a healthy diet for your child that’s limited in salt and highly processed foods. You should also encourage your child to get 60 minutes of exercise every single day.
If lifestyle changes don’t work or if your child’s blood pressure is extremely high, medications are the next approach. There are quite a few medications that have been proven safe and effective for children. Dr. Ahmad will discuss the options with you.
Whether it’s lifestyle changes or medication, follow Dr. Ahmad’s recommendations closely for the best results. Your child will also need to come in for regular blood pressure screenings to assess how the treatment plan is working. The general guideline is to test regularly after the age of 3.
To get started with your child’s blood pressure screening with our exceptional team at Pediatrician Specialty Practices in Federal Way, Washington, call our office or use our online scheduling tool to book an appointment with us today.