Yes, kids can have high blood pressure too. This is why children, age three and older, are routinely tested. Either because of family health tendencies, weight problems, or even an underlying medical condition such as heart or kidney disease, sometimes readings are high enough to be of concern. Just like with adults, hypertension in children is a major risk factor for heart disease which needs to be addressed. If left unchecked it can cause damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes over the long term. Learn about normal readings in children so you know what is healthy, and what may be a sign of a serious problem.
What Is Normal?
A blood pressure reading is a measure of the force of blood pumping through the arteries by the heart as well as the pressure of the arteries resisting this blood flow through the circulatory system when the heart is relaxed. A reading includes the systolic blood pressure (the pressure from the heart beating) and the diastolic pressure (the pressure between heart beats), usually one over the other, such as 120/70.
Normal numbers for children do vary with age — the older the child, the higher the reading will probably be. Height, weight, and gender are also factors. The following are general guideline numbers for different age groups. Only a doctor can say for sure if a child has high blood pressure depending on the specific size, gender and age of the child and possible contributing factors.
- 116/76 is a normal reading for children, ages 3 to 5
- 122/78 is normal for children, ages 6 to 9
- 126/82 is normal for children, ages 10 to 12
- 136/86 is normal for a child, ages 13 to 15
Aside from specific factors such as age and height, which help to determine what is normal, there are other reasons that a child’s blood pressure reading can be abnormal. First, blood pressure fluctuates naturally throughout the day. Recent physical activity can raise numbers. Likewise, if a child was recently sleeping, a reading may be slightly lower than it normally is. Emotions, from anger to happiness can alter numbers. Stress can also increase blood pressure significantly.
So, Does My Child Have High Blood Pressure?
A blood pressure reading is a great place for a doctor to start in determining if a child has hypertension or not. But, a reading is just that, a starting point, not a final answer. A reading also cannot tell a doctor what is the cause. By comparing normal blood pressure readings in children with abnormal numbers however, a doctor can decide to take a deeper look at the health of the child and decide if there is definitely a problem, what are the causes, and what are the solutions.
Some children simply have hypertension, and there is no known cause. In this case, emphasis on a healthy diet and regular physical exercise is important to make sure the child is healthy throughout their lives. Some children may have kidney or heart disease, and that is the cause of the abnormal numbers, in which case a doctor will talk about treatment options. More and more frequently children are being diagnosed with hypertension because of obesity. Childhood obesity is a rising problem in the West. Again, a healthy diet, exercise, a return to proper weight, and even a focus on mental health will help to address this condition.
American Heart Organization https://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4609
High Blood Pressure Info https://www.highbloodpressureinfo.org/blood-pressure-reading-chart.html
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford https://www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/cardiac/hbpca.html
photo by: Bruce Tuten (CC/flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/savannahgrandfather/312427606/sizes/m/in/photostream/