Normal blood pressure for adolescents
As children grow parents tend not to take them for physicals every year or two unless they require sports physicals for school activities. This may be a mistake since, although teens often appear healthy, this is a time in their lives when their bodies are able to withstand consistent assaults from chemicals, environmental stimuli, over eating and under exercise. Receiving a physical exam at least every other year keeps those problems in check as well as gives the physician a chance to evaluate the need for any other education or testing for any further medical problems.
One of those problems that are silent is high blood pressure. You will want your teen checked for normal blood pressure for adolescents. Blood pressure is a numerical measurement of the pressure needed to push blood through the arterial system. There are two numbers. The top number is the systolic pressure. This number represents the mg of mercury needed to push the blood through constricted or ‘tense’ arteries. The systolic number is generated when the heart is at the peak of pumping.
The diastolic reading is the bottom number and it represents the pressure that’s left in your arterial system when your heart is between pumps. When your doctor is evaluating your blood pressure the most important number is the bottom number because that pressure is consistently elevated while the top number is able to fluctuate more and drops to the bottom number between beats.
Normal blood pressure for adolescents is affected throughout the day by several factors that include: physical activity, emotional moods, anger, stress, age/height/weight/gender and the time of the day. Adolescents are also affected by white coat syndrome. This is a condition where the blood pressure of the patient is artificially elevated by the stress they experience being around the doctor.
Normal blood pressure for adolescents is determined by comparison against other adolescents and separated by gender. Boys tend to have blood pressure higher than girls, tall people have pressure higher than short people.
To help doctors evaluate what blood pressure is too high in teens the National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBEP) put together tables that give values depending upon how old and how tall your teen is. If your teens blood pressure is higher than 90 to 95% of others in their category (age and height) then they may consider them to have high blood pressure.
Having normal blood pressure for adolescents is a concern because hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a silent killer. Oftentimes patients don’t know that they have high blood pressure. The increased pressure in the arterial system will do permanent damage to the kidneys and heart leading to kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and coronary artery disease. The heart has to pump harder to circulate the blood leading to heart failure. Although heart attacks and strokes are very rare in children studies of children with high blood pressure show that by the time they are 20 they have permanent harmful effects of the heart and blood vessels even if the hypertension is mild.
The causes of higher than normal blood pressure in adolescents are much the same as in adults – high blood cholesterol levels, poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking and alcohol use. Sometimes hypertension in adolescents is secondary to another disease or illness, use of medication or severe pain with cancer or burns. When the secondary illness is treated then the hypertension often disappears. The higher than normal blood pressure in adolescents that is primary is more cause for concern.
In the adolescent years your physician will be very interested in helping your teen to change the habits that have gotten him the hypertension rather than throwing a medication at him. So the doctor will counsel you and your teen about weight loss, quit smoking, improve his nutrition and get some exercise. If the blood pressure is significantly high then they may also evaluate your teen for use of a mild anti-hypertensive medication to begin control while more natural methods are instituted.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Blood Pressure Tables for Children and Adolescents
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: A Pocket Guide to Blood Pressure Measurement in Children
Baylor College of Medicine: Age-based Pediatric Blood Pressure Reference Charts
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh: High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents
Wolters Kluwer Health: Teens with HIgh Blood Pressure have less Distress, better quality of life than teens with normal blood pressure
MayoClinic: High Blood Pressure in Children
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Hypertension
American Diabetes Association: Adolescents Blood Pressure can define their future Risk for Hypertension