Number of children with high blood pressure on the rise

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Most of the time high blood pressure in children is due to an underlying health condition.

But with childhood obesity on the rise in this country, so too are the numbers of children being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

And if it goes undetected, which is quite common, it could lead to some serious consequences.

Detecting high blood pressure in kids in the first place is a big challenge for doctors.

It's not common, therefore not on the radar, and the readings aren't always reliable.

"It's very difficult to have a child who is relaxed, calm, not excited at the doctors office, so we go to great lengths to make sure that measurement is right," said Dr. Jeff Saland, Chief of Pediatric Nephrology and Hypertension at Mount Sinai.

He works with many children with a history of the condition, like the Alvarado brothers.

One has to take high blood pressure medication because of an underlying heart condition.

The other has been getting high readings at the office but not at home when using a monitor there.

"We did a 24-hour blood pressure and when he's at home his blood pressure is quite normal, so that gives him an opportunity to use less salt, and lifestyle changes," said Dr. Saland.

He says that around 3 percent of children in this country have hypertension.

Underlying medical issues, obesity, or a family history is often the primary cause.

In three-fourths of these children, the condition goes undetected.

Doctors say this can lead to lots of issues, including lasting organ damage.

The key, Saland says, is for parents to make sure their children's pressure is checked, but not to make one high reading the end all be all.

"It can go up and down, but expect your pediatrician to get concerned and send you out to a specialist if its consistently high," said Saland.

He says the good news is, for most kids this is a condition that can be controlled by making healthier choices, something the Alvarado brothers are well-aware of.

"If like a doctor tells me you're overweight I've got to think about that and I've got to work on myself, I've got to play sports, eat healthier," said 13-year-old Joel Alvarado.

"We're healthy because of my two doctors," said 14-year-old Joshua Alvarado.

For parents of children like Joshua, who have to take medication, doctors say there are now medications on the market that have been tested and are safe for children to take.

So those concerned for their child are urged to get their pediatrician on board and get that pressure checked. null
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