Kids Health Matters: High blood pressure

High blood pressure can occur at any age, even in young people. And under new guidelines, more teens are being diagnosed with it.

When Darren Haines' routine physical showed high protein levels in his urine, his family doctor worried it might be a sign of kidney disease.

So Darren was referred to Dr. J.J. Zaritzky of Nemours duPont hospital.

Dr. Zaritzky says high blood pressure is often the first sign of kidney or thyroid disease in kids. But America is seeing more kids with another, adult type of high blood pressure strongly linked to obesity.

"That we think is what's causing this huge rise. We can see it as young as basically seven years old," he said.

So the Academy of Pediatrics now recommends yearly blood pressure checks start at age three.

According to the CDC, about 4% of kids ages 12 and up do have high blood pressure. Another 10% have elevated blood pressure, which could become full hypertension.

However, Dr. Zaritzky says that can be prevented.

"We try, try, try, try to hold off on starting children on medicine," he said.

So lifestyle changes are the first avenue.

"Believe it or not, lifestyle changes are easier to achieve in children than they are in adults," said Dr. Zaritzky.

Kids are still growing, so if you can hold the line on their weight, they'll grow into it. Dr Zaritzky says losing weight is also a little easier for children than adults and building more activity into their days is a bit easier, too.

He says healthy eating is a must.

"The simplest diet for anybody to take on is basically trying to stay away from preserved or prepared foods," said Dr. Zaritzky.
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