Kids Face the Dangers of Hypertension

OCTOBER 01, 2004

New guidelines from the National High Blood Pressure Education Program suggest hypertension screening for children starting at age 3, to continue throughout life. Dr. Bonita Falkner, professor of medicine and pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, estimates that "One to three percent of the nation's children and adolescents may have hypertension or pre-hypertension and be at risk of developing long-term, often serious and irreversible health problems as a consequence." Researchers found that the adult model for determining hypertension and prehypertension is not appropriate for children and adolescents because of the varied body size, shape, height, weight, and other characteristics. The new guidelines would take these factors into account. They define hypertension in children as blood pressure above the 95th percentile and prehypertension between the 90th and 95th percentiles. In adolescents, prehypertension is defined as a blood pressure higher than 120/80 mm Hg. Falkner adds, "Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is the most prominent clinical evidence of target-organ damage caused by hypertension in children and adolescents. The presence of LVH is an indication for physicians to initiate or intensify antihypertensive therapy." While parents do not need to make a special doctor's appointment to have blood pressure checked, they should make sure blood pressure screening is a part of their child's annual physical exam?especially if there is a family history of hypertension.