Nearly 1 in 3 adult Americans — have high blood pressure. It is very common in African Americans, who may get it earlier in life and more often than whites. Many Americans tend to develop high blood pressure as they get older, but this is not a part of healthy aging. Middle-aged Americans face a 90% chance of developing high blood pressure during their lives. Others at risk for developing high blood pressure are the overweight, those with a family history of high blood pressure, and those with prehypertension (120–139/80–89 mmHg).
High blood pressure occurs more often among African Americans than whites. It begins at an earlier age and is usually more severe. My father suffered his first stroke from hypertension at 33. I was diagnosed with hypertension at 24. Further, African Americans have a higher death rate from stroke and kidney disease than whites. The good news is, treatment can control high blood pressure. In addition, lifestyle changes can prevent and control high blood pressure. These include losing weight if overweight (losing 10 lbs can help), increasing physical activity (walking 30 minutes per day can help), following a healthy eating plan, that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods, choosing and preparing foods with less salt and sodium, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, drinking in moderation. If lifestyle changes alone are not effective in keeping your blood pressure controlled, there are many blood pressure medications to help you.
Children, even very young babies, can have high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that all children have yearly blood pressure measurements. Early detection of high blood pressure will improve the health care of children. Some diseases — usually heart or kidney disease — can cause high blood pressure in children. This is called secondary hypertension. If the disease is successfully treated, blood pressure usually returns to normal. Some medicines can cause high blood pressure, but when they're discontinued, blood pressure usually returns to normal.
At one time, doctors thought that most high blood pressure in children was secondary (that is, caused by other disease). Now they know this isn't so. Some children have higher blood pressures than others for unknown reasons. These children are said to have primary or essential hypertension.
Research scientists don't know why some children have higher blood pressure than others. Children who are overweight usually have higher blood pressure. Some children inherit the tendency toward higher blood pressure from one or both parents. High blood pressure is more frequent and more severe in families of African Americans than in whites. The reasons aren't fully understood.
A special diet and physical activity may be prescribed by the doctor to help lower high blood pressure in overweight children. The doctor may also prescribe medication if an appropriate diet and regular physical activity don't bring the high blood pressure under control.
Cigarette smoking isn't directly related to high blood pressure, but youngsters who smoke should stop for a variety of health reasons. Parents should set a good example by not smoking and educating their children about the hazards of smoking.
What are the classifications of high blood pressure in children?
In a recent report that analyzed the national childhood blood pressure data, the blood pressure percentiles were refined. Now they’re based not only on sex and age, but also on height to determine age-, sex- and height-specific systolic and diastolic blood pressure percentiles. This approach provides information that allows for consideration of different levels of growth in evaluating blood pressure. It also demonstrates the blood pressure standards that are based on sex, age and height, and allows a more precise classification of blood pressure according to body size. More importantly, the approach avoids misclassifying children at the extremes of normal growth.