Pediatric hypertension

Pediatric hypertension is a medical condition where a child has high blood pressure.

It is defined as consistently elevated blood pressure values that are higher than the normal range for age, gender and height of the child. 

Hypertension affects about 4% of children and 11% of adolescence.

Hypertension in children is blood pressure that is at or above the 95th percentile for children who are the same sex, age and height.

Target ranges for high blood pressure in children changes as children grow. 

In teenagers, high blood pressure is defined the same as for adults: A blood pressure reading greater than or equal to 130/80 millimeters of mercury

The younger a child is, the more likely it is that the hypertension is caused by a specific and identifiable medical condition. 

Older children can develop high blood pressure due to excess weight, poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

While pediatric hypertension is less common than hypertension in adults, it is becoming increasingly prevalent due to rising rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyle habits in children.

It is important to obtain accurate blood pressure readings for children, as they can vary based on activity level, position, and time of day.

There are many factors that can contribute to pediatric hypertension, including underlying medical conditions, such as kidney disease or heart defects, as well as lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity. 

Pediatric hypertension can be caused by a wide variety of factors including genetics, obesity, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and kidney or heart problems. It can also be secondary to certain medications or medical conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes and hormonal imbalances. 

Genetics may also play a role in some cases.

Untreated pediatric hypertension can increase the risk for early onset of heart disease and stroke, as well as damage to organs such as the kidneys and eyes. 

Treatment typically includes lifestyle modifications such as increasing physical activity and improving diet, as well as medications if necessary. 

Childhood hypertension may be asymptomatic.

Possible symptoms:




Chest pains


Shortness of breath

A child’s blood pressure should be checked during routine well-check appointments starting at age 3.

Hypertension 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. 

Your child’s risk factors for high blood pressure depend on health conditions, genetics and lifestyle factors.

Primary hypertension occurs without an identifiable cause. 

Primary hypertension occurs more often in children age 6 and older. 

The risk factors for developing primary hypertension include:

Being overweight or having obesity

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

Being Black or Hispanic

Being male

Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke

Being sedentary

Secondary hypertension

Is 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

Adrenal disorders

Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

Narrowing of the artery to the kidney (renal artery stenosis)

Sleep disorders, especially obstructive sleep apnea

Certain drugs and medications, including decongestants, stimulants used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), caffeine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids, cocaine, methamphetamine and similar drugs

Children who have high blood pressure are likely to continue to have high blood pressure as adults unless they begin treatment.

High blood pressure can be prevented in children: controlling child weight, healthy diet low in salt and encouraging exercise.

If left untreated, pediatric hypertension can cause damage to organs like kidneys and heart and lead to serious complications like stroke and heart attacks later in life. 

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