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Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of the arteries as it moves through the body. It's normal for your child's blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. But if it stays up, your child has high blood pressure. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension.
What is normal and what is high blood pressure depends on your child's age, sex, and height. The numbers change as your child grows.
Blood pressure is described with two numbers. For example, a child's reading might be 96/57 or "96 over 57."
When blood pressure is a little high, it may increase the risk of health problems later in life.
If blood pressure is very high, it can cause serious and immediate damage to a child's body, especially the heart and brain. This type of high blood pressure is rare. With very high blood pressure, your child or teen may need more tests to find the cause.
Primary, or essential, high blood pressure is a type of high blood pressure. With this type, doctors can't tell exactly what is causing the high blood pressure. But several things make a child more likely to get it. One is having a family history of it. These things include a family history of high blood pressure, having sleep apnea, and being overweight.
Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another disease or medicine. Problems that can cause secondary high blood pressure may include:
Sometimes it can be caused by medicine a child is taking.
Children age 3 and older often have their blood pressure checked during routine doctor visits. If your child's blood pressure reads high, you may be asked to bring your child in again for another blood pressure check.
The doctor might have your child wear a portable device to measure blood pressure over 24 hours.
Your child may need more tests to check for illnesses that may be causing high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is treated in different ways. Treatment depends on how high the blood pressure is. When it's just a little high, doctors often treat it with a healthy lifestyle, like eating healthy foods and being active.
If the blood pressure is higher and if a healthy lifestyle doesn't help lower it enough, the doctor may recommend medicine.
If another health problem is causing the high blood pressure (secondary high blood pressure), treating the other health problem may lower the blood pressure. Your child may also need medicine to lower it.
Your doctor may suggest a healthy lifestyle to help lower your child's blood pressure. Try these tips:
Eating healthy foods and being physically active may help your child lose weight.
Help your child eat a diet that's rich in foods that can help lower blood pressure. Your child's doctor may recommend the DASH diet. This eating plan includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and non-fat dairy foods. Also help your child limit sodium and sugar in foods and drinks.
Your child's doctor can help you make an activity plan. Being active for at least 60 minutes a day might be a good goal for your child. You can also help your child if you are active too. This can teach your child that exercise is for everyone.
Screen time includes TV, computers, tablets, smartphones, and video games. If you are considering limiting screen time, your doctor can offer information and support as you think about making this change.
For example, try to eat as a family at regular times. And find an activity you all can do.
If your child has very high blood pressure, medicines may be needed. Your doctor can tell you how long your child may need to take medicine.
It can be hard to remember to help your child take pills when there are no symptoms. But blood pressure will go back up if your child doesn't take the medicine. Here's something that can help.
Try to plan a time for your child to take medicine along with something else that happens at that same time every day. This can be something like eating a meal or getting ready for bed. If that's hard to do, you or your child can set a daily alarm as a reminder.
Medicines for high blood pressure have side effects. Ask your doctor what side effects to look for and what to do if you see them.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
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Current as of: September 7, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Michael P. Pignone MD, MPH, FACP - Internal Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics
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