Healthy Blood Pressure Among Youth
CDC study using the updated 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Clinical Practice Guideline 1 shows that about 4% of youth in United States aged 12–19 years have hypertension, and another 10% have elevated blood pressure (previously called “prehypertension”). Youth with obesity had the highest prevalence of hypertension.
Between 2001 and 2016, the prevalence of hypertension declined using both the new and former guidelines. But there are still many youths with hypertension and other cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes. Data shows that between 2015 and 2016, the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adolescents (12-16 years) was 20.6% 2 While obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure, having high blood pressure in adolescent without proper interventions/treatments increases the risk of high blood pressure in adulthood. High blood pressure also increases the risk for other dangerous health conditions such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, etc.
Using the criteria of the 2017 AAP Clinical Practice Guideline, more than 1 in 7 U.S. youth aged 12–19 years had hypertension or elevated blood pressure in 2013–2016.
Additional Key Points from the Study 2
- Hypertension among youth has decreased, but youth are still at risk
- The new guideline changes the numbers and uses a lower threshold for hypertension
- Risks for cardiovascular disease that start in childhood are more likely to carry over into adulthood
- Healthy diet and exercise are important to reducing these risk factors
According to CDC, there are things that parents could do to help youth keep a healthy weight and normal blood pressure:
Ask your doctor to measure your child’s blood pressure starting at age 3. Helping children maintain a healthy weight, eat nutritious foods, and get regular physical activity can lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.
Offer nutritious food and drinks
Offer lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables in place of foods high in added sugars and solid fats. Try serving more fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks.
Provide foods that are low in sodium (salt). Sodium raises blood pressure. Nearly 9 in 10 U.S. children eat more sodium than is recommended. Learn more about sodium.
Make sure drinking water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary drinks, and limit juice.
Promote Physical activity
Help your child get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. There are many age-appropriate activities to choose from.
Learn about healthy weight
Be aware of your child’s growth. Learn how obesity is measured in children, and use CDC’s Child and Teen BMI Calculator to screen your child for potential weight issues.
Be a role model! Eat healthy meals and snacks, and get the right amount of physical activity every day. Help shape a healthy school environment using CDC’s Parents for Healthy Schools resources.