Hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure, doesn’t solely affect adults. More than 3 percent of children and adolescents have hypertension. Among other factors, the rise in obesity—a common cause of hypertension—has led to an increase in the number of children and adolescents with high blood pressure. In fact, in certain subgroups, the percentage of children with high blood pressure may reach 20 percent.
In young children, hypertension is often caused by underlying medical conditions that involve the kidneys, heart, and hormone system. Hypertension tends to run in families. In addition, emotional stress can temporarily increase blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can affect the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes.
Doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone recommend that families take a proactive approach to preventing hypertension, particularly if a child is overweight or has other risk factors for the condition.
For example, offer your child a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and eliminate processed foods, which contain added salt, fat, and sugar. Ensure that your child eats foods such as bananas that contain potassium, a mineral that helps to lower blood pressure. If your child is overweight, meet with a registered dietitian for help in developing a healthy, reduced-calorie menu that your child finds appealing.
Fit exercise into your child’s schedule at least three times a week. Studies have shown that regular physical activity decreases the risk of high blood pressure, regardless of weight. And because stress can increase blood pressure, encourage your child to try stress-reducing activities, such as yoga or meditation.
If your child has an underlying medical condition that affects the kidneys, keep up to date with medical appointments to ensure your child is monitored regularly for hypertension.
Secondhand smoke may also increase a child’s risk of hypertension. Experts from NYU Langone’s Tobacco Cessation Programs can help you quit for good.
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