Why More Kids Are About To Be Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure

You may want to prepare yourself for some unsettling news from your children’s pediatrician the next time you go for a visit.

That’s because the American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines for treating high blood pressure in children aimed at diagnosing and treating the often-missed disease – and as CNN notes, this means more children and teens are about to see abnormal blood pressure diagnoses. The guidelines, last updated in 2004, are published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Based on recent large-scale studies, about 3.5 percent of kids and teens have hypertension, though in the past that was estimated to be just 1 to 2 percent, Dr. Joseph T. Flynn, lead author of the guidelines and a pediatrics professor at the University of Washington, told CNN. It’s among the top five chronic diseases for both adolescents and children. Yet health care professionals fail to make the diagnosis in as many as 75 percent of children in primary care settings.

So why does pediatric hypertension happen in the first place?

“In infants and very young children, we worry about an underlying cause like kidney disease,” Flynn, added. For older school-age children, there’s a higher likelihood there isn’t a “specific problem,” like in adults. This is called primary, or essential, hypertension.

High blood pressure could have devastating consequences for children when they grow up.

“Untreated, we believe that high blood pressure in a child will lead to high blood pressure when that child becomes an adult, so that would potentially lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life,” Flynn also said.

This news could mean earlier interventions than in the past.

“Everyone’s loath to put kids on medicines if you don’t have to, but we may need to get there a little bit faster than we have traditionally in the past,” Dr. Sophia Jan, director of general pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, told CNN. She did not work on the guidelines.