High blood pressure in children is on the rise

By June Shannon Heart News   |   4th Jul 2019

Hypertension in children “a ticking time bomb” for cardiovascular fitness in adulthood

The number of children with high blood pressure in Ireland is increasing, putting them at a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in adulthood, a leading paediatric cardiologist has said.

Dr Paul Oslizlok, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin and member of the board of the Irish Heart Foundation said that the prevalence of high blood pressure in children in Ireland was underestimated and is on the rise.

He suggested that children aged 3 to 4 should get their blood pressure checked at least once before starting school and again every few years or so.

Dr Oslizlok said there were a number of technical issues that can make measuring young children’s blood pressure more complex, including the need for smaller child-sized blood pressure cuffs, and the fact that the normal blood pressure values for children were less well known and changed depending on the child’s age.

“Having said that, we simply have to get better at this. There is significant evidence that if we miss elevated blood pressure in childhood then we have set the stage for hypertension related problems including, cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease etc. in adulthood,” he said.

Dr Oslizlok added that the increased prevalence of high blood pressure in childhood was due to the fact that more GPs were checking for it but also, because children were leading more sedentary lifestyles, were less engaged in sports leading to childhood obesity, which is related to hypertension.

“The worry is that we are setting the stage for not just hypertension, but obesity related problems by children being much more sedentary, stuck on their laptops or whatever screen is in front of them at the time and that is a real concern,” he said.

" There is significant evidence that if we miss elevated blood pressure in childhood then we have set the stage for hypertension related problems including, cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease etc. in adulthood,"

Dr Paul Oslizlok, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist and Board Member , Irish Heart Foundation

Meanwhile an international conference on child health heard recently that it was never too early to thing about high blood pressure.

Speaking to the Irish Heart Foundation at the 9th Europaediatrics Conference which took place in Dublin recently, Dr Karl McKeever, Consultant in Paediatric Nephrology in Belfast, said the foundations for good health in adult and middle age were put down in the early years and one of the most important measures of that was blood pressure.

According to Dr McKeever, “once your child is above three, they should have that [blood pressure check] done with their doctor once a year.”

Dr McKeever said research has shown that a large percentage of adolescents and older children were not reaching the recommended level of daily physical activity and he called for an increased public health focus on adolescents for the management of hypertension describing them as “the lost tribe.”

He said that hypertension in children was the strongest predictor of adult hypertension- one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Dr McKeever said that the prevalence of hypertension in children was increasing and he described it as, a “ticking time bomb” for their “cardiovascular fitness later in life.”

He said there was now a move throughout the world to approach high blood pressure as a screening tool for future morbidity across the life span.

“So, it isn’t just something you think about when …you hit a big birthday …it is something that is important right from birth.”

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child health childhood obesity high blood pressure hypertension

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