High Blood Pressure in Teens

Question: I am 16 years old and I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. What is high blood pressure and is it very serious? How did I get it? Is it normal for me to have high blood pressure? I was under the impression only adults have this problem. Please help.

Answer: Although high blood pressure (hypertension) was originally assumed to be an “adult problem” it no longer affects only adults. High blood pressure in teens, in the present day, is as common as high blood pressure in adults. High blood pressure is not a disease that should be ignored and certainly not in the case of teens, as it will reduce the life span of the body organs dramatically. Untreated high blood pressure can ultimately lead to fatalities as it creates a number of medical complications. Therefore, teenagers diagnosed with hypertension must ensure that they implement some major lifestyle changes that are required to bring down blood pressure in order to live a healthy life.

Causes of High Blood Pressure in Teens

It is necessary for all teenagers to understand what affects blood pressure. Blood pressure can increase due to kidney diseases, heart problems, hormone problems etc. This is known as secondary hypertension. However, most often, the cause of teenage hypertension is unknown. In such circumstances, when the cause is unknown, this is called primary hypertension. Some teenagers seem to inherit the predisposition for developing high blood pressure from their parents. Others simply develop high blood pressure due to poor lifestyle choices. Modern day teenagers are less active. They spend the day indoors playing video games or watching TV. While engaged in these activities, they consume foods high in saturated fats. These include chips, burgers, pizzas, sweets etc. Consuming more calories and not doing any exercise to burn it off can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries. Consuming more calories also increases the risk of obesity. The arteries that are instrumental in transporting blood in and out of the heart narrows with plaque build up. Then the heart has to work harder to ensure the right supply of blood and oxygen reaches the organs. This increases the strain placed on the heart as well as the pressure on the vessel walls. Over time, the plaques become brittle and the artery walls lose its suppleness, becoming more susceptible to rapture. Such rapture can lead to a sudden heart attacks or a stroke as blood clots can block the major arteries. Obesity also increases pressure on the heart, thereby, increasing blood pressure. Another reason for high blood pressure in teens is hormone changes. Teenagers go through significant hormonal changes during their teenage years. Surges of testosterone and oestrogen hormones along with obesity and lack of exercise markedly increase the risk of high blood pressure in teenagers.

Measuring Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is measured as systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure monitors the heart beats when it is pumping blood and the diastolic pressure monitors the heart at rest. When indicating blood pressure, it is written with the systolic number on top and the diastolic number at the bottom. A healthy blood pressure reading should be in the range of 120/80. Blood pressure readings vary in teenagers according to their age, sex and heights. Therefore, a doctor must be consulted in order to obtain a proper blood pressure reading. Blood pressure readings fluctuate at different times of the day. The best method of detecting an accurate blood pressure reading in teenagers is through ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. This provides blood pressure readings throughout the day, and the doctor will use an average of the readings to diagnose high blood pressure.

Treating High Blood Pressure

The treatment of high blood pressure depends on pinpointing what effects blood pressure increase. If there is an underlying cause to the reason of the pressure spike, treating the cause will help to bring down the pressure. In addition, the doctor may recommend exercise and dietary changes. Teenagers who smoke are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure. Therefore, the doctor may also advise teenagers to stop smoking. Most doctors do not prescribe high blood pressure medications to teenagers. However, if there is no change in blood pressure with lifestyle changes, they will have no option but to be treated with medications.

High blood pressure in teens is becoming more and more common these days. High blood pressure is a serious fatal condition if not detected and treated in time. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle and proper diet is vital to prevent high blood pressure in teenagers.

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