Hypertension is the number one health related risk factor in India and contributing to a huge mortality burden. It contributes to an estimated 1.6 million deaths annually in India, due to ischemic heart disease and stroke. Moreover, hypertension is also a major modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular and renal disease in India. Evidence shows that most people above the age of 30 years are at risk of developing hypertension in their lifetime. Therefore, improved detection and treatment of hypertension in India is a must.
While the awareness about hypertension is growing in India, the most worry element is that hypertension among children. Studies show that the prevalence is higher in urban and overweight children.
Symptoms of hypertension in kids
Signs and symptoms that might indicate a high blood pressure emergency include:
- Chest pains
- Fast, pounding, or fluttering heart beat (palpitations)
- Shortness of breath
If your child has any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care.
What causes hypertension in kids?
High blood pressure in younger children is often related to other health conditions such as heart defects, kidney disease, genetic conditions or hormonal disorders. Older children — especially those who are overweight — are more likely to have primary hypertension.
There are mainly two types of hypertension condition among kids- primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension occurs on its own, without an identifiable cause. This also agentic condition. This type of high blood pressure occurs more often in older children, generally age 6 and older. The risk factors for developing primary hypertension include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a family history of high blood pressure
- Having type 2 diabetes or a high fasting blood sugar level
- Having high cholesterol
- Eating too much salt
- Leading sedentary lifestyle
Secondary hypertension is usually a byproduct of another condition. It’s more common in young children. Other causes of high blood pressure include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Heart problems, such as severe narrowing (coarctation) of the aorta
- Rare tumors
- Narrowing of the artery to the kidney (renal artery stenosis)
- Sleep disorders, especially obstructive sleep apnea
- Certain medications, such as decongestants and steroids
- Drug abuse
Prevention of Hypertension in Kids
Hypertension can be prevented in children by making some lifestyle changes that includes controlling your child’s weight, providing a healthy diet and encouraging your child to exercise.
Hypertension caused by another condition can sometimes be controlled, or even prevented, by managing the condition that’s causing it.
When should you see a doctor?
If hypertension is prevalent in the family that children should be screened for hypertension starting the age of 3, and at every appointment if your child is found to have high blood pressure.
If your child has a condition that can increase the risk of hypertension — including premature birth, low birth weight, congenital heart disease and certain kidney problems — blood pressure checks might begin in infancy.
If you see any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is important to report it your doctor.
––Dr Shuvanan Ray, Director, Cardiology, Fortis Hospital Kolkata