Healthy Living: Obesity epidemic linked to rising rates of high blood pressure in kids

The next time you take your child to the doctors office for a check-up, you may notice a change.

New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend all kids have their blood pressure measured, starting at 3-years-old.


Dr. Joseph Flynn with Seattle Children's Hospital says high blood pressure in kids is a much more common problem than people realize.  He says about 3 1/2% of kids have hypertension and those rates have been going up in recent years.  Dr. Flynn blames the growing obesity epidemic in the U.S.  In fact, the problem has gotten so bad, the Centers for Disease control estimates one in five kids in the U.S. are now obese.

Under the new guidelines for blood pressure checks, pediatricians should now be measuring blood pressure in well-child checks starting at age 3.  If they are not, Dr. Flynn says ask them to.

Since high blood pressure runs in families, it's important you tell your child's doctor of any history of hypertension.  That can help alert them to potential risks and help the entire family address concerns.

Another change with the new guidelines, simplifies the reference table doctors use to measure high blood pressure, helping better identify the risks early.  Dr. Flynn says the new guidelines will help in promoting overall good health in kids and will prompt action if there are concerns.

High blood pressure is considered a silent killer since symptoms of the condition doesn't cause symptoms until something happens like a heart attack or a stroke.  Although those things are rare in kids, hypertension can be something that can put them at risk for heart disease later in life.

High blood pressure is treatable and even reversible in kids through diet and exercise.