A study that appeared in the the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reports that pediatric hypertension is increasing as a result of the obesity epidemic in the United States, and that in most cases, high blood pressure in children goes undiagnosed. The study observed over time 14,000 children aged 3 to 18 at outpatient clinics in a large academic urban medical care system in Ohio. Of these, over 500 had hypertension (3.6%). Almost three-quarters of these cases had been up to that point undiagnosed. One of the problems is that doctors do not routinely take children’s blood pressure, assuming that hypertension is an adult problem. If one extrapolates from these findings, then nationwide, roughly 2 million children have high blood pressure, and 1.5 million of those cases are undiagnosed. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to a variety of health problems including heart disease, stroke, artery damage, and kidney disease, which are problems that often take years to develop after the first onset of hypertension. There is concern that this increase in undiagnosed hypertension in children and adolescents could be a warning sign that the nation’s obesity epidemic is predisposing many youngster to developing serious health problems later on in life.
For more information about the developmental issues of children and adolescents, see my book: The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life.
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