July 2012

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High Blood Pressure in Children

About 1 in 3 adults nationwide has high blood pressure, or hypertension. But did you know that kids can get hypertension too? By some estimates, up to 3% of U.S. children have high blood pressure. A new study by NIH-funded scientists shows that the number of kids hospitalized with hypertension is rising.

Scientists analyzed data on children, ages 2 to 18 years, who were hospitalized for high blood pressure. Over a 10-year period, the number these hospitalizations nearly doubled, climbing from 12,661 in 1997 to 24,602 in 2006. On average, children with hypertension also remained in the hospital twice as long as kids with other illnesses—8 days compared to 4 days.

Pediatric hypertension can lead to later complications. “A child with high blood pressure is at increased risk for having high blood pressure in adulthood and the heart and stroke risks that come with that diagnosis,” says study co-author Dr. Cheryl Tran of the University of Michigan. She and her colleagues suggest that the rise in hospitalizations for hypertension may be partly due to increased childhood obesity.

Hypertension often has no symptoms, but it can be easily diagnosed by a health care provider. The sooner it’s found, the sooner it can be treated. A healthy diet, physical activity and weight loss can help to keep blood pressure in check.

To learn more, read NIH’s new brochure High Blood Pressure and Children: What Parents Need to Know. To order a free print copy, visit nkdep.nih.gov/resources.shtml or call 1-866-454-3639.