Is your provider checking your child’s blood pressure at each sick or well child visit? If not, they could be missing some important clues to your child’s overall health and well being.
The American Heart Association recommends that children ages 3 and up have routine blood pressure checks at each well child and sick visit. By checking blood pressure on a regular (yearly or more) basis, providers can recognize and become aware of other potentially more serious health problems that your child may have.
High blood pressure in a child can lead to stroke or even heart disease as an adult. By catching and closely monitoring a child during their childhood, steps can be taken to reduce the risks later on.
There are several classifications for high blood pressure. They are primary hypertension and secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension is an increase in blood pressure brought on by unknown factors. Some children seem to have higher blood pressures and there is no known reason or underlying cause. Other children inherit higher blood pressures from parents. Researchers are not sure why some children have higher blood pressures with no known cause or why other children have higher blood pressures so early in life as a result of their parents.
Other children may have secondary hypertension, or blood pressure brought on by other factors. Kidney and heart disease generally will cause blood pressure to increase. Diabetes can also cause higher blood pressure and will also require more frequent blood pressure checks and blood pressure monitoring. Certain medications may also increase blood pressure. In recent years, children taking medications for Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD have been encouraged to have regular blood pressure checks, and even echo cardiograms if needed.
But perhaps the largest cause of secondary hypertension in kids is growing obesity rates. Diet and exercise can help in reducing obesity and lowering blood pressure. Lowering salt intake in children and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption can also help. Medication may also be required to help lower blood pressure in children who are overweight.
What are normal blood pressures in children? Find your child’s age below and you will see the normal range for blood pressure. The systolic (upper) number is listed first and the diastolic (lower) number is listed last. Note that there are different ranges for boys and girls and that it is normal for blood pressure to raise as a child gets older.
Age 3: Boys: 86-95/44-48 Girls: 86-93/47-51
Age 4: Boys: 88-97/47-52 Girls: 88-94/50-54
Age 5: Boys: 90-98/50-55 Girls: 89-96/52-56
Age 6: Boys: 91-100/53-57 Girls: 91-98/54-58
Age 7: Boys: 92-101/55-59 Girls: 93-99/55-59
Age 8: Boys: 94-102/56-61 Girls: 95-101/57-60
Age 9: Boys: 95-104/57-62 Girls: 96-103/58-61
What are steps that you can take as a parent to help your child? One thing you can do is notify your provider of any family history of heart disease or risk factors for higher blood pressure. For instance if you or your spouse has diabetes, or a parent or grandparent has had heart disease or high blood pressure, make your provider aware of that. If your provider is not regularly checking your child’s blood pressure, encourage them to do so at each well child check. Your child’s heart health is important, even at a young age!
National Institutes of Health: Blood Pressure Chart in Children
“High Blood Pressure in Children” –AHA recommendation http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4609