Steadily rising numbers of young people diagnosed with high blood pressure has pediatricians concerned and researchers searching for a cause to the condition that has always been traditionally associated with adults.
Over the past decade, researchers have found the number of young Americans — age 18 and under — hospitalized because of hypertension nearly doubled between 1997 and 2006, and today it is estimated nearly two million children live with high blood pressure nationally, according to the National Pediatric Blood Pressure Awareness Foundation.
Though generally pediatric hypertension is a secondary diagnosis in children as the result of other medical conditions such as high cholesterol or Type 2 diabetes, the number of primary diagnoses is giving pause to pediatricians, many of whom attribute the hike in hypertension to lifestyle choices leading to obesity.
“It’s still very uncommon, but we’re seeing more and more kids every year because it’s tied in with obesity and that’s a repercussion of that,” said Dr. Jeffrey Mudd, pediatrician with The Pediatric Group of Paducah.
Since the hearts and arteries of hypertensive patients work harder and put more strain on the cardiovascular system, left unchecked over long periods of time, high blood pressure can lead to serious conditions.
Hypertension can follow children into their adult years and put them at a higher risk for stroke or heart disease, Mudd said, making exercise and proper diet essential in battling the ailment.
Working with the NPBPAF, Western Baptist Hospital is sponsoring Blood Pressure 4 Kids Awareness Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at Kentucky Oaks Mall. Volunteers from The Pediatric Group of Paducah will provide free blood pressure screenings for children ages 3 to 17.
Helping to spread the message of under diagnosed pediatric hypertension will be stars from the History Channel series “Swamp People.” The Edwards family, including Junior, Willie and Theresa, will meet fans and sign autographs during the screening.
“Whatever it takes to get the kids in to check them out, we’ll do it,” Mudd said.
The NPBPAF recommended all children, ages 3 and older, to have their blood pressure read at each doctor’s visit, and children considered overweight should be frequently monitored for increases in blood pressure.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.