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High Blood Pressure in Children

Most people think of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, as a condition that affects older people. This may have been true in the past, but these days, high blood pressure affects people of all ages -- including young children.

Why is high blood pressure in children a growing problem? What can you do to protect your child from this threat? The first step is to learn all you can about high blood pressure in children, its causes, consequences, and treatment.

What Is High Blood Pressure in Children?

Blood pressure is the force of blood as it flows through the body's vessels. Under normal conditions, the heart pumps blood through the vessels all over the body. The vessels widen and contract as needed to keep blood flowing well. In a person with hypertension, however, the blood pushes too hard against the blood vessels, which can cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, and other organs.

It's easy for adults to tell if they have high blood pressure simply by having blood pressure checks and comparing the numbers to a simple chart. Children have the same tests; however interpreting the numbers is trickier. Your child's doctor will use charts based on your child's sex, height, and blood pressure numbers to determine whether or not your child has high blood pressure.

How High Blood Pressure Affects Children

As in adults, high blood pressure in children can result in serious, long-term health effects, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke

Obesity and High Blood Pressure in Children

Risk factors for high blood pressure in children include obesity and a family history of high blood pressure. Other risk factors may include medical problems such as sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

Obesity is considered the primary risk for high blood pressure in children. Not only does being obese put your child at risk for high blood pressure, but also for a range of other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

What Causes Obesity?

Sometimes obesity can be linked to other health problems. In most cases, though, obesity is due to the combination of two factors:

Too much food. Many kids eat more food than their bodies require. Obesity can also result when a child's diet is full of the wrong types of food, such as unhealthy snacks and sugary beverages. For that reason, it is important to keep an eye on the quality as well as the quantity of the food your child consumes.

Too little activity. Many children do not exercise enough and spend hours every day engaged in sedentary activities, like watching television or playing video games.

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