Doctors Warn of Increasing Rates of High Blood Pressure in American Children
by David Morel, age 15
About five percent of American children suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure. High blood pressure is commonly considered a problem among overweight children, although in some cases genetics and rare medical problems also play a role.
Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have found that children with high blood pressure tend to have enlarged hearts, which can lead to artery disease. Hearts enlarged because of chronic high blood pressure are weak and stiff, which increases the risk of heart attack. Exercise, followed by rest and recovery can strengthen enlarged hearts and increase their efficiency.
Children can achieve a healthy blood pressure with a few key lifestyle changes. First, kids need to get at least an hour of physical activity daily. They should limit sedentary activities such as playing video games or watching television.
Diet is also considered important. Kids should consume a healthy amount of fruits (two to four servings daily) and vegetables (three to five servings daily). Children at risk for heart disease and high blood pressure should limit their salt intake. Fast foods and packaged foods are notorious for having high salt contents. Excessive consumption of salt can lead to fluid retention, which can increase blood pressure. Salt can also cause your arterioles (small blood vessels) to contract, resulting in higher blood pressure.
Medical experts say children should have their blood pressure checked regularly, beginning at age three. Maintaining healthy blood pressure is important. It not only decreases the risk of heart disease, it also prolongs life.
[Sources: The Wall Street Journal; Los Angeles Times]