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Study: More Than A Million Children Suffer From High Blood Pressure

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It's not something you normally associate with kids, but according to a new report released Tuesday, more children may be suffering from high blood pressure than you might think. NY1 Health & Fitness reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report on what some parents may want to know before that next trip to the pediatrician.

A new study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association Tuesday shows there could be as many as million children across the country suffering from high blood pressure, but they and their parents are not aware of it because their doctors have not diagnosed it.

The large estimate comes from researchers out of Case Western Reserve in Cleveland who examined medical records of nearly 15,000 kids and found that only about a quarter of them with high blood pressure were properly diagnosed.

Many pediatricians say the statistics are troubling, especially given a growing childhood obesity epidemic.

“The association between obesity and hypertension is clear across the age spectrum,” said Dr. Emily Straus of Beth Israel Medical Center. “I think that one of the key components here is targeting overweight children at an early age, and going over guidelines, healthy eating, exercise, decreased television viewing from the get-go so they can start off with a healthy lifestyle.”

Older, taller, and heavier children were more likely to be diagnosed. But, doctors point out those groups are not the only ones with high blood pressure.

Doctors say the major challenge is that it is difficult to diagnosis high blood pressure in children, who should be checked annually since age three.

“I think the difficulty comes in, number one, obtaining an accurate measurement,” said Straus. “And then the next piece is interpreting the measurement. I think interpretation of a pediatric blood pressure can be difficult because the norms are not universal.”

Doctors say it's clearly an area of healthcare that needs to improve, because just like in adults, high blood pressure can often be a sign of health problems including diabetes, heart disease, or other serious illnesses.

- Kafi Drexel
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