FRIDAY, May 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Children as young as 3 years old should have their blood pressure checked during routine pediatric exams, say new treatment guidelines presented May 20 at the annual scientific meeting of the American Society of Hypertension, in New York City.
"The long-term health risks for hypertensive children and adolescents can be substantial. If left untreated, they pose a growing public health challenge," Dr. Bonita Falkner, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said in a prepared statement.
Falkner chaired the national committee that developed the new guidelines.
Traditionally, body size and age have been used to determine the normal range of blood pressure in children and adolescents. These new guidelines offer blood pressure standards based on height, age and gender.
Falkner said these new standards provide more precise clarification according to body size and help avoid misclassification of children who are very short or very tall.
The new guidelines also suggest that pediatricians recommend diet, exercise and weight control counseling for children with prehypertension.
"The definition of hypertension remains the same," Falkner said.
Guidelines from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute define statistical high blood pressure as readings of 140 over 90 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) and above. Individuals with readings between 120 over 80 mm/Hg and 140 over 90 mm/Hg fall into a 'prehypertensive' category that requires a close watch on diet and exercise to keep blood pressure under control.
According to Falker, those guidelines are the same for kids. "By adolescence, a blood pressure reading of greater than 120/80 is considered to be prehypertension," she said.
The Nemours Foundation has more about children and hypertension.