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Some Kids Under 3 Need Blood Pressure Checked

High Blood Pressure in Childhood Increasingly Common

Kids and a Change of Life continued...

"That means increasing physical activity in children who are sedentary, making dietary changes, and for those who are already overweight, taking measures to control weight," says Falkner.

Weight loss should be the No. 1 treatment for high blood pressure due to obesity, according to the guidelines. Both regular physical activity and a reduced-calorie diet should be part of the weight loss plan.

Physical activity should include some activity that the child enjoys for 30 to 60 minutes at least four days a week. Sedentary activities, such as watching TV, using a computer, or playing video games, should be limited to less than two hours a day to help prevent obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Diet should include limited salt as well as a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Reducing salt can also help bring blood pressure down. The experts also suggest getting the whole family involved because that improves weight loss success in children.

Blood Pressure Drugs for Kids

If those efforts fail after six months or children already have more severe high blood pressure, they would be treated with high blood pressure medications used in adults. Most have already been tested in children, but diuretics, among the least expensive and most widely used, have not.

"There are also certain indications to take further steps," says Falkner. "Children with more severe hypertension should have their (cholesterol) levels checked, evaluated for sleep apnea, and be tested for pre-diabetes." These conditions are associated with high blood pressure, and some children might even be tested for organ damage, especially to the kidneys.

"The major message for parents is that hypertension is a cardiovascular risk factor and it begins in the young -- this is not a problem only limited to adults," says Joseph Flynn, MD, director of the Pediatric Hypertension Program at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore and another panel member.

"Clearly, high blood pressure starts in childhood," he tells WebMD. "It's to the benefit of the child to have something done about it early, before they become cardiac cripples at age 40. This is taking a more preventative approach."

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