New Federal Guidelines Recommend Routine Blood Pressure Checks for Children
New federal guidelines scheduled to be released at a meeting of the American Society of Hypertension on Thursday recommend that physicians check children for high blood pressure during routine office visits starting at age three and look for possible heart and blood vessel damage in children with high blood pressure, the AP/Washington Post reports. Although guidelines issued eight years ago also recommended routine checks, a "large proportion" of pediatricians and family practitioners still are not routinely measuring children's blood pressure, according to Ronald Portman of the University of Texas-Houston, a member of the committee that wrote the guidelines. The new guidelines are intended to address a growing issue among U.S. children, particularly as rates of obesity -- which has been linked to hypertension -- increase. Government estimates indicate that children's average blood pressure has increased "slightly but significantly" over the past 10 years, with average systolic pressure readings increasing from 105 to 106 and average diastolic pressure readings increasing from 58 to 62. Under the new guidelines, children's readings over the 95th percentile are considered to be hypertension, and readings between the 90th and 95th percentiles are considered to be pre-hypertension. Bonita Falkner, chair of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program committee that wrote the guidelines, said that even very young children can have organ damage from high blood pressure and that lifestyle change, such as losing weight, is the first step in controlling the condition in children. Healthy blood pressure readings in children, unlike adults, vary according to size and age, and initially high readings often decrease with repeated measurements. However, like adults, children should be given medications to lower blood pressure if levels do not decrease or respond to lifestyle changes, the AP/Post reports. The guidelines will be published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics (AP/Washington Post, 5/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.