High blood pressure (hypertension) in children is blood pressure that's the same as or higher than 95 percent of children who are the same sex, age and height as your child. There isn't a simple target blood pressure reading that indicates high blood pressure in children, because what's considered normal blood pressure changes as children grow.
High blood pressure in children younger than 10 years old is usually caused by another medical condition. High blood pressure in children can also develop for the same reasons it does in adults â€” being overweight, eating a poor diet and not exercising.
Lifestyle changes, such as eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising more, can help reduce high blood pressure in children. But, for some children, medications may be necessary.
Symptoms:High blood pressure doesn't often cause symptoms, though some children with high blood pressure may experience headaches.
Severe high blood pressure: In severe cases, your child might have serious signs and symptoms that indicate a medical emergency, such as:
Shortness of breath
Risk factors: Your child's risk factors for high blood pressure depend on underlying health conditions, genetics or lifestyle factors.
Secondary high blood pressure: Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that's caused by an underlying health condition. This is the type of high blood pressure that's more common in young children. Other health conditions that can cause high blood pressure include:
Chronic kidney disease
Polycystic kidney disease
Heart problems, such as coarctation of the aorta
Conditions affecting the kidneys, such as lupus
Pheochromocytoma, a rare tumor in the adrenal gland
Narrowing of the artery to the kidney (renal artery stenosis)
Essential, or primary, hypertension: Essential hypertension is high blood pressure that occurs on its own, without an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure occurs more often in older children and adolescents. The risk factors for developing essential hypertension are:
Being overweight or obese (a body mass index over 25)
A family history of high blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes or a high fasting blood sugar level
High cholesterol and triglycerides
Complications: Children who have high blood pressure are likely to continue to have high blood pressure as adults unless they begin treatment.
A common complication associated with high blood pressure in children is sleep apnea, a condition in which your child may snore or have abnormal breathing when he or she sleeps. Pay attention to breathing problems your child may have while sleeping. Children who have sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea, often have problems with high blood pressure â€” particularly children who are overweight.
If, as often happens, your child's high blood pressure persists into adulthood, your child could be at risk of:
Lifestyle and home remedies:High blood pressure is treated similarly in children and adults, typically starting with lifestyle changes.
Control your child's weight. If your child is overweight, losing the excess pounds or maintaining the same weight as he or she gets taller can lower blood pressure.
Give your child a healthy diet. Encourage your child to eat a healthy breakfast that includes fiber and to avoid sugary cereals and beverages or products that have corn syrup solids listed as the first ingredient. Provide plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in place of higher fat snacks like candy or chips. Trade white bread, rice and pasta for whole-wheat varieties. Working with a dietitian can be helpful.
Decrease salt in your child's diet. Cutting the amount of salt (sodium) in your child's diet will help lower his or her blood pressure. Children ages 4 to 8 shouldn't have more than 1,200 milligrams (mg) a day, and older children shouldn't have more than 1,500 mg a day.
Pay attention to how much salt you use in your cooking, and take the saltshaker off the table. Avoid giving your child salty snacks, such as chips or pretzels. Also, pay attention to how much sodium is in canned and processed foods your child eats, such as soups and frozen dinners. Limit the amount of fast food your child eats. Fast-food restaurants generally have high salt menus as well as high-calorie foods.
Encourage physical activity. Most children need at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Limit your child's time in front of the television or computer â€” no television before age 2, and no more than two hours of "screen time" a day after age 2.
Get the whole family involved. It may be hard for your child to make healthy lifestyle changes if you or your child's siblings don't eat a healthy diet or exercise. So, set a good example. Your whole family will benefit from eating a healthier diet. You can also join in the fun of riding your bikes together, playing catch or walking to the park as a family.