By Dr Gaurav Garg
When we talk about high blood pressure, we do not usually associate it with children. We associate it with adults. Adults who are facing a lot of pressure and are not able to pay attention to their health. Of late, however, the number of hypertension cases in children has risen. Not significantly. Yet noticeably.
One of the main reasons for this is the intake of processed food which is making them obese at a young age. Obesity comes with a large set of problems and hypertension is one of the main ones. Another reason for hypertension in children is the increasing levels of stress they face. Then, there is also a genetic factor which cannot be ignored. Sometimes hypertension in children is a result of their genes. The best thing to do is to help your child adopt a healthier lifestyle. Get them to move about, shake it out, eat healthy, jump around. Exercise and a good diet go a long way in helping children overcome basic health issues. Hormonal issues, kidney related ailments, heart defects at birth can also cause hypertension.
Some symptoms which you should be aware of in the event of a high blood pressure emergency are headaches, seizures, vomiting, chest pains, a pounding heartbeat, palpitations, and shortness of breath. A lot of times what happens is that children mistake an anxiety attack for a heart attack which heightens the anxiety causing the heart to beat even faster.
So, when should you see your doctor? If you suspect that something is amiss, my advice is that you seek a consult right away. Other than that ensure you are regularly having follow up appointments with your pediatrician. Some things you should be aware of – there are two types of hypertension – primary and secondary.
Primary hypertension is when there is no identifiable cause. It could be a result of diabetes, genetics or even obesity. It happens in children above the age of five. Secondary hypertension is a result of conditions such as chronic kidney disease, heart problems, such as severe narrowing (coarctation) of the aorta, adrenal disorders, hyperthyroidism, and sleep disorders.
Yes, it is scary, but it can be managed. Some cases (mostly secondary hypertension cases) will require medication, but most of the time lifestyle adjustments go a long way in helping children be healthy and live healthy. Give them three proper meals a day with vegetables, rice, roti, dal along with fruits and nuts. A 30 minute walk a day also helps. Allot one day for moderate consumption of junk food. These are habits which need to be instilled in your child to make his or her body strong.
(Dr Garg is a senior consultant and in-charge pediatric cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh)