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Can children get high blood pressure?

February 21, 2013 aboutbloodpressure High Blood Pressure

We usually think of high blood pressure, or hypertension, as a problem that affects adults. But, in fact, this condition can be present at any age, even in infancy. About five of every hundred children have higher than normal blood pressure, although fewer than one in a hundred has medically significant hypertension.

How blood pressure is measured

The term blood pressure actually refers to two separate measurements:

  • systolic blood pressure is the highest pressure reached in the arteries as the heart pumps blood out for circulation through the body
  • diastolic blood pressure is the much lower pressure that occurs in the arteries when the heart relaxes to take blood in between beats

If either or both of these measurements are above the range found in healthy people of the same age and sex, it’s called hypertension.

Causes

In many cases, hypertension seems to develop with age. As a result, your child may show no signs of high blood pressure as an infant, but may develop the condition as she grows. Children who are overweight are much more prone to have hypertension (as well as other health problems). Thus, good eating habits (without overeating and without emphasizing high-fat foods) and plenty of physical activity are important throughout the early years of childhood (and for the rest of her life).

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