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“Do kids even get high BP?” a hapless mother asked after reading a recent study that that a sedentary lifestyle, high intake of sugar and salt, and obesity are the major causes of hypertension in nine out of ten children and adolescents.
Since high blood pressure in children, like adults, is asymptomatic, it tends to remain undiagnosed for long. That, in turn, exposes the children to a risk of deadly conditions like kidney problems, heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.
Dr. Pawan Kumar, a senior consultant in pediatrics at Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, New Delhi, says that the normal limit of blood pressure varies across different age groups. Like, a younger child will have a low upper limit, while for adults, anything above 130/80 is considered hypertension. He also adds that since blood pressure among children is not scrutinized on a regular basis, the extent of hypertension among children remains veiled.
Dr. Kumar also adds that some of the symptoms that can indicate high blood pressure include constant headache, vomiting, chest pain, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, or seizures in extreme cases.
In younger children, high BP can be an outcome of some other specific or identifiable health conditions like heart problems, kidney diseases, hormonal defects, genetic disorders, etc.
Whereas, if an older child suffers from hypertension, the major causes of it could be obesity, an imbalanced diet, high sugar or salt intake, inactivity, stress, or family history of hypertension, high cholesterol, and smoking. This type is called primary hypertension which has no underlying cause and occurs on its own due to poor lifestyle.
Hypertension in small age groups can occur due to factors such as kidney disease, polycystic kidney disease, an over-active thyroid, sleep disorders, medications, blockage in heart blood vessels, etc. High blood pressure in children can expose them to the risk of catching deadly diseases like the risk of kidney disease, heart attack, and strokes.
A survey conducted by Vandana Awasthy and Dr. Abhinav Verma on a big sample size of 5000 students between the age group of 12 to 18 years revealed serious findings. Children these days consume excess junk food by preferring to eat outside over homemade tiffins. Additionally, today’s children are under high pressure to perform better in academics to be able to build a promising career pathway in the future. They are under unrealistic peer and societal pressure to decide now on the career they are thinking to pick.
The issue of hypertension in children is a matter of serious concern and needs immediate attention. Cases, where high BP in children has no underlying medical condition, can be easily cured through simple lifestyle modifications.
The family should encourage their children to indulge in at least one hour of daily physical activity for healthier weight management and limit their screen time. The child’s daily intake of sugar and salt should be cut down, and family members should only set realistic goals and expectations from their children.
If a regular check-up indicates hypertension in a child, then a regular monitoring procedure should be followed. The child should be put on medications under a doctor’s supervision to lower persistent hypertension. In cases where existing medical conditions are the cause of hypertension in children, then those conditions that aggravate high BP should be treated accordingly.