Healthy blood pressure in children differs from adults

“What is considered a healthy reading for adults could indicate an unhealthy blood pressure for some children,” said Jyothi M. Matta, M.D.

The commonly known “goal” for healthy blood pressure in adults is 120/80, but this guideline does not apply to many children.

“What is considered a healthy reading for adults could indicate an unhealthy blood pressure for some children,” said Jyothi M. Matta, M.D., pediatric cardiologist with Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

How does blood pressure work?

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers: a top number and a bottom number. The top number, or systolic blood pressure, measures how hard the heart is working each time it beats. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, measures how hard the heart is working in between heartbeats.

Blood pressure values are measured in four categories: normal, pre-hypertension (high blood pressure), stage 1 hypertension and stage 2 hypertension.

What is healthy blood pressure for a child?

Healthy blood pressure values change as a child grows, so there isn’t a simple range or measurement for high blood pressure in all children. High blood pressure is considered a reading that is greater than or equal to the 95th percentile for children of the same age, sex and height. For teenagers, high blood pressure is considered at or above 130/80.

Norton Children’s Heart Institute

Our team of cardiologists can work with families to help treat and prevent high blood pressure in children.

Call (502) 629-2929.

Guidance for parents

Blood pressure should be checked yearly during a child’s annual wellness visit.  Healthy lifestyle habits are the best way to prevent high blood pressure among children.

Parents can act as good role models by incorporating a well-balanced and healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, having an active lifestyle with regular aerobic exercise, and avoiding tobacco.

Physical exercise is a major tool to help prevent heart disease in children. Parents can plan physical activities, spend time outside together and exercise in front of the kids or with them.

A healthy diet also aids in heart disease prevention. Parents and children can plan healthy meals together, grocery shop together and cook together.

Childhood risk factors

High blood pressure usually doesn’t cause symptoms, and asymptomatic hypertension is a common issue among children.

Blood pressure must be regularly monitored, especially in children with the following risk factors: being overweight or obese; having a family history of high blood pressure; having diabetes or high cholesterol; eating a diet high in sodium; being male, Black and/or Hispanic; smoking or exposure to tobacco; and living a sedentary lifestyle.

 


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