High blood pressure diagnoses are set to increase but not for the population you might expect.
According to new guidelines released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more children and teens are likely to be diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure. The report notes that the doctors are missing the diagnosis far too often— up to 75 percent of the time. The guidelines were last updated in 2004.
“These guidelines really are a streamline for how to evaluate blood pressure in children and adolescents,” said Dr. Joshua Samuels, Professor of Pediatrics at the McGovern Medical School at UT Health in Houston.
“We have seen an increase in children’s blood pressure over the last decade or so and that’s probably related to the obesity epidemic that we’re seeing in children, but that doesn’t completely explain the increase in blood pressure that we’re seeing.”
The new report, published in the journal Pediatrics, estimates that 3.5 percent of young people have hypertension an increase from past estimates of 1 to 2 percent placing it among the top five chronic diseases for adolescents and children.
The 20 person committee developed new guidelines after reviewing nearly 15,000 articles on the proper diagnosis, evaluation, and management of hypertension in kids and teenagers. The guidelines include a renewed emphasis on routine blood pressure checks during wellness visits and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, periodic blood pressure measurements taken over 24 hours, to confirm the diagnosis in those who display borderline or high blood pressures on routine examination.
The Silent Killer
Cheyenne Cameron, 16, was a healthy young girl who suddenly didn’t “feel right.” This wasn’t merely a case of first day jitters prior to starting her freshman year in high school. She was feeling dizzy and her heart was racing. “I felt like a car was sitting on my chest,” Cheyenne told NBC News. “Like a heavy chest pressure and I was lightheaded. I felt horrible. I was helpless.”
The Damon, Texas native played softball and hoped to join the Fire Department but also struggled with maintaining a healthy weight. When she became sick she feared that she wouldn’t be able to participate in either anymore.
“My illness took a toll on me emotionally and physically. I felt drained. I was always tired. I missed my freshman year, 180 days of class,” Cheyenne shared with NBC News. “It was hard to keep up. I didn’t know what was wrong. I missed my friends and like not being able to do what my sister and brother would do. My sister was on the softball team, my brother was playing football and baseball, and I was just the bench warmer.”
So Cameron’s mother, Katie Cameron, took her to the doctors.
“It did not occur to me that it could be high blood pressure bothering Cheyenne because I just didn’t think that could even be possible for a 15 year old,” said Cameron.
This belief is likely shared by many parents because hypertension is less common in young kids and adolescents and often is not accompanied by any visible symptoms.
“High blood pressure is a silent killer that takes its toll on the body over time, says Dr. John Torres, NBC News Medical Contributor. “That means you can’t tell if someone has high blood pressure just by looking at them, you need to do an actual blood pressure measurement. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to high blood pressure in adulthood and increased risk of heart problems so it is especially important to get it under control in children, even at a very young age.”
At her heaviest Cheyenne was 220lbs. She has since lost 60 pounds by cutting fried foods and substituting lean meat and vegetables in its place.
“Her symptoms just went away,” Cheyenne’s mother told NBC News.
Currently Cheyenne is not on any medication, but many adolescents who suffer from high blood pressure might need to be placed on the same blood pressure medications normally used in adults.
Cheyenne is happy that she no longer needs to be on medication, but knows that unhealthy habits might result in her having to take them in the future — so her journey has just begun. She is encouraging friends at school who are also struggling with obesity and has decided to lead a more active life by joining the fire department.
“I feel great. I’m happier, I’m more self-confident,” Cheyenne proclaimed. “I feel proud because many teenagers my age don’t have the willpower to lose the weight. Not many teenagers have the confidence to say look I’m obese, I’m unhealthy, I have to own up to this and I can change this.”