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Children's Health

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High Blood Pressure May Be Problem for Kids, Too

Study Shows 20% of West Virginia Children May Have Hypertension

Screening Kids in Schools

Minor says the finding that close to 20% of screened fifth-graders had high blood pressure is probably “not too far off the mark” for preteens in the state and other states with high childhood obesity rates.

Despite the challenges of school-based blood pressure screening, she says other states should consider doing it.

The American Heart Association recommends annual blood pressure monitoring for children. But with the exception of West Virginia, this rarely happens outside the pediatrician’s office, she says.

“Schools are the ideal places to screen because that’s where the kids are,” she tells WebMD. “If everyone agreed that school-based screening was worth doing, many of the problems we have experienced would be addressed.”

While the long-term impact of developing high blood pressure so early in life remains to be seen, Touyz says the predictions are dire. “It is now believed that thanks to the obesity epidemic, this may be the first generation where the life span of parents may be greater than their children.”

Minor agrees. “A 20-year-old who has been hypertensive since age 10 has had high blood pressure beating against his arteries for a decade,” she says. “We wouldn’t let an adult go a decade with high blood pressure without addressing it.”

More extensive blood pressure screening of kids would help identify those most likely to benefit from lifestyle interventions to lower risk, Minor says.

“We are not talking about treating kids with medication,” she says. “We are talking about interventions to make them more active and thinner.”

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