An estimated 1 in 25 youths ages 12-19 have hypertension, which is when the blood pressure remains abnormally high. This is about 1.3 million adolescents in the United States. About 1 in 10 youths have high blood pressure. This persistent elevation in blood pressure can lead to serious yet preventable disease unless identified and treated early.
On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Jasmine Reese, M.D., director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital explains hypertension and its impact on adolescents and teens.
What are high blood pressure and hypertension?
In general, blood pressure is the pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries in your body as the heart pumps blood. If you have high blood pressure, this means you are putting an increased amount of pressure on your blood vessels, causing your heart to work harder than it should and this could put you at risk for many different chronic illnesses over time. These include stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, vision changes and damage to your blood vessels.
The guidelines on pediatric hypertension that pediatricians and physicians use to make the diagnosis have been updated over the years. This has helped us to better classify blood pressure more precisely. Additionally, updated guidelines have allowed for more discussion with families and patients on prevention as well as early detection for treatment and management.
What are the causes of hypertension in teens?
One of the greatest risk factors is obesity. Sometimes it is caused by underlying medical problems with other parts of the body such as kidney disease or cardiovascular disease. It can also be caused by certain medications. One example of a common medication used by teens includes hormone contraceptives. Also, if parents have any concern about their teen engaging in alcohol or drug experimentation, this can lead to high blood pressure and other health concerns.
What can parents do to prevent hypertension?
Encouraging your teens to maintain a healthy diet is extremely important in preventing hypertension and heart disease. For example, offering healthy meals that are nutritious, low in sodium, include fruits and vegetables, contain less added sugar as well as offering more water with meals instead of soda or juice.
Creating a schedule that includes daily or routine physical activity is also important in maintaining a healthy weight and overall healthy body function. Be sure to bring your teens in for their annual checkups on time each year and ask your pediatrician or doctor to review growth charts and blood pressure measurements so that you are aware of their overall health status.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Jasmine Reese, M.D.