Can Children Have High Blood Pressure?   

Can Children Have High Blood Pressure?

Close up view of a doctor taking a child's blood pressure. Child wearing blood pressure cuff.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Guillermo Hidalgo, M.D.

When we think of high blood pressure, we typically think of adults, but can children have high blood pressure?

“Yes, children indeed can have high blood pressure, and it can mean a variety of things. For young children, it can be a symptom pointing to another health concern such as a kidney disease, heart defect, or hormonal disorders, or it can be the result of other genetic or environmental risk factors,” warns Guillermo Hidalgo, M.D., pediatric nephrologist at Hackensack Meridian Health.

Obesity is the most common risk factor for high blood pressure in children, other risk factors include:

  • a family history of high blood pressure, 
  • exposure to second-hand smoke,
  • hormonal abnormalities,
  • and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

What is blood pressure?

In both adults and children, blood pressure is a measurement of the force of blood flow through the body.  As your heart pumps blood throughout your body, the blood pushes a certain pressure on the walls of the arteries as it flows. A high blood pressure reading indicates that the pressure against those walls is higher than it should be.

There are two types of classifications for high blood pressure (or hypertension) – primary hypertension and secondary hypertension.

Primary hypertension is high blood pressure that doesn’t have a known cause.

Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure caused by another condition or disease, such as:

  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart or kidney disorders

How is high blood pressure diagnosed in children?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians conduct blood pressure screenings for children at their annual visit.

“For children, we’ll measure their blood pressure levels as well as look at several factors like their weight, gender and lifestyle habits,” adds Dr. Hidalgo. “For most, there are no symptoms signaling an issue, which is why it’s important to do these checks routinely.”

What are the signs of high blood pressure in children?

“Typically, for both children and adults there aren’t ordinary symptoms to look out for, that would indicate high blood pressure,” adds Dr. Hidalgo. “High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as ‘the silent killer,’ you may not realize you have it until it’s too late – this is why annual screenings are critical.”

How is high blood pressure treated in children?

“Our first stop in a treatment plan is to identify if there is an underlying cause, like a sleep disorder or hormonal imbalance – we’ll want to treat that baseline issue. Secondly, we address any lifestyle conditions that may be the cause, like diet and fitness level,” says Dr. Hidalgo.

Heart healthy tips for children include:

  • Eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and try to reduce salt intake
  • Prioritize physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Protect your child from secondhand smoke

“Parents should partake in these lifestyle changes – it will be good for them, and help their child stay on track for these goals,” shares Dr. Hidalgo.

Medications are also available to help manage high blood pressure in children.

“If you have any concerns about your child’s blood pressure, don’t hesitate to contact their pediatrician,” shares Dr. Hidalgo.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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