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HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE — IN KIDS

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by Pramod Narula, M.D.

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My teenage son has just been diagnosed with high blood pressure. What types of health problems are associated with this condition, and how can I ensure that he’ll stay healthy?


   While high blood pressure — which is also known as hypertension — typically occurs in adults, the condition is becoming more common among children, due to the increasing rates of childhood obesity. Children with hypertension have blood pressure that’s higher than 95 percent of that of children who are the same age, height and gender. If high blood pressure is ignored, it can result in damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. But if the condition is detected and treated quickly, your son will be able to lower his blood pressure without experiencing any severe medical complications.

   First, it’s important to know whether your son has primary or secondary hypertension. With secondary hypertension, your doctor should be able to pinpoint the exact cause. Children who have secondary hypertension also have another condition, such as kidney disease, heart disease, or impaired functioning of the nervous or endocrine system, which results in high blood pressure. If your son has secondary hypertension, your doctor can devise a treatment that will treat the condition that’s causing the problem and also lower his blood pressure.

   On the other hand, the development of primary hypertension is usually related to an unhealthy diet, inactive lifestyle and family history of hypertension. If your son has primary hypertension, modifications to his diet and starting a regular exercise routine could be enough to lower his blood pressure. Encourage your son to eat more fruits and vegetables, lower his salt intake, exercise, or even start practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga. If your son is having a difficult time managing his weight, following a weight-loss program that entails doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes every day could help. Your son should not lift weights until his blood pressure returns to normal levels and his doctor approves this type of exercise. If lifestyle changes do not improve your son’s condition, your doctor may prescribe medication.

   Simply being aware of the fact that your son has hypertension is the first step to getting his blood pressure back to a healthy level. Once you and your doctor have a treatment strategy in place, he will be well on his way to preserving his health for many years to come.      


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