Most people think high blood pressure (also called hypertension) affects only adults, but kids can have it too. While most children with hypertension don’t face the same immediate risks that adults do, high blood pressure can still put children at risk for serious health complications later in life.
Parents can do several things to reduce their child’s risk of developing high blood pressure, says Dr. Dorit Ben-Ezer, medical director of CHOC’s pediatric nephrology program and a specialist in high blood pressure and related issues. Keeping kids active and having them maintain healthy weights are important.
Parents should model healthy eating habits and engage in regular physical activity. “On the weekend instead of going to the mall, the family can go on a hike or a walk,” suggests Dr. Ben-Ezer, who also offers the following tips to prevent high blood pressure:
- Diet: To help your kid maintain a healthy weight, make sure he eats plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods with too much added sugar, fats and saturated fats. Control your child’s salt intake. Reducing salt intake helps lower the amount of fluid the body retains, which lowersing the blood pressure. Cook with herbs or spices instead of salt. Be aware that caffeine and illicit drugs can elevate blood pressure.
- Exercise and physical activity: Encourage your kids to be active and limit sedentary activity to two hours or less per day.
- Children with kidneys problems or those born prematurely (especially if they suffered complications) have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Make sure these children get their blood pressure checked regularly.