By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
While researching “Women and Hypertension“, I also looked into high blood pressure in kids. It seemed like the maternal thing to do—especially for someone like me, with seven grandchildren. What I found was disturbing, but not really surprising given our culture’s increase in obesity, inactivity, and poor food choices.
High blood pressure is on the rise among kids. Researchers are finding that primary hypertension is more common in adolescents and has multiple risk factors, including obesity and a family history of high blood pressure. Secondary hypertension affects more preadolescent children and is usually caused by kidney disease.
According to the newest findings out of the University of Rochester, kids with high blood pressure are four times more likely to have a learning disability or ADHD. “Doctors need to be aware that these conditions commonly occur together,” said Marc Lande, MD, a pediatric kidney specialist, at a recent meeting of the Pediatric Academic Society. “This apparent association between hypertension and learning problems is particularly important in light of the recent increase in hypertension in children in this country that has occurred as a result of the dramatic rise in obesity.”
What can we, as parents and grandparents, do? When I raised my children, all we had to monitor was their television viewing. Nowadays, there are many more opportunities for kids to be inactive—the Internet, video games, cell phones, and texting. Kids need to romp and stomp now even more than in the past, and we as authority figures need to establish healthy boundaries when it comes to sedentary activity.
It’s not easy, but kids learn from our example. We need to eat healthier, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. We also need to talk with our kids and grandkids about stress at school and at home. Remember, kids follow what we do, not what we say.
Because high blood pressure in kids is a commonly overlooked problem, be sure that your pediatrician monitors your child’s blood pressure at check-up time. This is especially important when kids reach their teens, when pressure is most likely to begin rising.
And one more thing: If you’re concerned about a child with blood pressure issues, find a good naturopathic doctor who will check the child’s blood and urine for high levels of lead and other toxic metals. These substances can contribute to high blood pressure, but your average MD probably won’t look for those things.
Remember, a child with hypertension is more likely to become an adult with hypertension—so do what you can to prevent the problem.
- Luma G, et al. Hypertension in children and adolescents. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(9):1558–1568.
- Hypertensive kids more likely to have learning/attention problems. News release from the University of Rochester Medical Center. Accessed September 14, 2009.
“High Blood Pressure and Kids – The Shocking News” originally appeared as part of “Women and Hypertension” in the October 2009 issue of Dr. Sinatra’s monthly written newsletter, Heart, Health & Nutrition. HMDI has reprinted this article with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC (© 2009 Healthy Directions, LLC).