Hypertension or high blood pressure in teens can be a serious but preventable disease. Routine check-ups with your teen’s pediatrician or adolescent medicine doctor can help screen for elevated blood pressure and its risk factors. Jasmine Reese, M.D., is the director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She shares with us why this topic is so important.
What is hypertension (high blood pressure)?
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 chronic illnesses such as stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, vision changes and damage to your blood vessels.
How common is hypertension in adolescents and what causes it?
Over the past several years, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in seven adolescents in the 12- to 19-year-old age group had hypertension. Hypertension is more common in adults but in adolescents 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 it can be caused by certain medications. For adolescents, it is important for teens and parents to let your pediatrician know what medications you are taking so that they can monitor for any side effects including blood pressure changes. One example of a common medication for teen and young adult girls includes hormone contraceptives. Also, if parents have any concern about alcohol or drug experimentation, they should also share this information since this also can lead to elevated blood pressure and other health safety concerns.
What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure?
The dangerous part of having high blood pressure is that initially your teen might not feel or complain of anything. Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, chest pain, nausea and vomiting might happen with longstanding hypertension or severely elevated blood pressure. This is one of the reasons why annual check-ups with your pediatrician are so important. If they are complaining of any of these symptoms without some other obvious cause, you want to get them checked right away.
What are ways to prevent hypertension in adolescents?
The best way to prevent hypertension that is related to obesity or overweight status is to maintain a healthy diet and engage in routine physical activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends five servings of fruits and vegetables included in your teen’s diet, one hour of physical activity daily, and zero sugary beverages. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits can help keep your teen from needing additional medications to treat their blood pressure. If their hypertension is due to a cause other than obesity, then be sure to check in with your pediatrician on ways to manage your teen’s health appropriately.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.