Can Your Teenager Develop Hypertension?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease that most don’t begin to think about until they are well into their adult life, but more and more teenagers and younger children are now developing high blood pressure.

It was once believed that high blood pressure in teens was largely related to an underlying problem with the heart or kidneys. Research has shown that this is not the case and that teens today are developing hypertension in approximately the same proportions as adults.

One of the biggest reasons is the rise of childhood obesity. Teens in the United States now weigh more and exercise less than in past generations. Smoking cigarettes, as well as alcohol and drug use can also be contributing factors. As a result, rates of high blood pressure among this group have a grown at a rapidly increasing rate.

While these factors certainly can’t be ignored, they are not the only reasons why a teenager can develop high blood pressure. The teenage years are synonymous with puberty. The sudden bodily changes that take place during this time in a young adult’s life can also play a role. Hormone changes and rapid growth spurts can cause transient increases in blood pressure levels. As a result, even if a child isn’t overweight or inactive, they could still post high levels. Being obese or inactive can only add to the problem.

Another issue is understanding the definition of hypertension in teenagers. While determining hypertension in adults is fairly easy as there are set numerical values used as markers, diagnosing the disease in teens is more complicated. To determine hypertension in teens, doctors look at five key factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Systolic reading (the upper value which represents the pressure when heart contracts)
  • Diastolic reading (the lower value which represents the pressure when the heart relaxes)

These values are then compared to other boys or girls to determine where the teen falls with a certain percentile. The system is a complicated one but takes into account factors that better characterize a teen’s blood pressure. As a result, blood pressure readings that may seem high when looked at on an isolated basis may end up being perfectly normal when adjusted for the child’s height, age, and gender.

Because teenagers with hypertension tend to suffer more cardiovascular events later in life, early intervention is vital to lowering the blood pressure and sustaining long-term control.

Treating hypertension in teenagers will typically focus on lifestyle interventions before medications are considered.  Suggested changes include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining an ideal body mass index (BMI)
  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting cigarettes
  • Limiting drug and alcohol use

It’s important that your teenager have an annual physical examination performed so a doctor can check their blood pressure. If your teen does not have a doctor, Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center has many qualified physicians. To make an appointment, please call 718-670-5486.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Is There an Underlying Cause for Your Hypertension?

Over 75 million or one out of every three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, or hypertension.  For most, hypertension is the result of either genetic or lifestyle factors such as obesity or smoking, but for approximately 10% of Americans, hypertension is caused by the existence of another disease.

When hypertension is the result of another medical condition it is referred to as secondary hypertension. Secondary hypertension can be caused by a variety of conditions that affect any number of different systems and organs. Some of the most common causes for secondary hypertension include:

  • Kidney disease -Secondary hypertension can be related to damaged kidneys or to an abnormal narrowing of one or both renal arteries.
  • Coarctation of the aorta.With this congenital defect, the body’s main artery (aorta) is narrowed (coarctation). This forces the heart to pump harder to get blood through the aorta and to the rest of your body. This in turn, raises blood pressure — particularly in your arms.
  • Adrenal disease – The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and produce several hormones that help regulate blood pressure. Sometimes, one or both adrenal glands make and secrete an excess of these hormones.
  • Hyperparathyroidism – The parathyroid glands regulate levels of calcium and phosphorus in your body. If the glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone, the amount of calcium in your blood rises — which triggers a rise in blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy –  Pregnancy can make existing high blood pressure worse, or may cause high blood pressure to develop (pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia).

Like primary hypertension, secondary hypertension usually has no specific signs or symptoms, even when your blood pressure has reached dangerously high levels.  Secondary hypertension can also worsen an underlying medical condition and lead to other serious complications, such as heart attack or stroke, if left untreated.

In most cases, once an underlying medical condition causing hypertension is identified and appropriate treatment is provided, your blood pressure will return to normal.

If you have a condition that can cause secondary hypertension, it is important to see your doctor and have your blood pressure checked regularly.

If you have hypertension and believe there is an underlying cause, schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you do not have one, please call Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center at 718-670-5486 to schedule an appointment.

 

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

How Can Hypertension Affect Your Eyesight?

We are aware of the many serious consequences of living with high blood pressure, or hypertension.  Prolonged, untreated hypertension can negatively impact your heart and your kidneys, but how can hypertension affect your eyesight?

High blood pressure can lead to a condition known as hypertensive retinopathy and the damage can be very serious if not addressed.

Eye close upThe retina is a layer of tissue located at back of the eye and contains cells that are sensitive to light. These cells trigger nerve impulses that pass via the optic nerve to the brain, where a visual image is formed. When your blood pressure is too high, the walls of the retina may thicken, which restricts blood flow to the retina and limits its function, resulting in potentially permanent vision problems, including blindness.

A person with hypertensive retinopathy wouldn’t typically display any symptoms until the condition has progressed. Possible signs may include:

  • Reduced vision
  • Eye swelling
  • Bursting of a blood vessel
  • Double vision accompanied by headaches

In most cases, an eye specialist can diagnose hypertensive retinopathy during an examination using an instrument called an opthalmoscope to examine the retina. Your doctor will look for signs of narrowing of blood vessels, spots on the retina, swelling or bleeding in the back of the eye.

Effective treatment for hypertensive retinopathy involves controlling your blood pressure. This can be done through medication and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, doctors recommend maintaining an ideal body weight, eating and healthy diet and exercising regularly as methods to lower your blood pressure.

If you are living with high blood pressure, or if you think you are, see a doctor immediately. If you do not have a doctor, you can make an appointment at Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center by calling 5486.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

What is White Coat Hypertension?

WhiteCoat-207x300Does the thought of having a physician take your blood pressure make you nervous? Anxiety over going to the doctor’s office can lead to an elevation in your blood pressure; a condition known as “white coat hypertension.”

White coat hypertension is a real condition that occurs when blood pressure readings at your doctor’s office are higher than they are in other settings, such as your home. The term white coat refers to the traditional white lab coat health care professionals wear in clinical settings.

The underlying cause of white coat hypertension is believed to be tension and stress associated with being examined by a physician. Not much attention was given to this condition since the blood pressure of patients returned to normal levels when taken in the home environment, where they feel more relaxed. Recent studies however have proven that people with white coat hypertension are twice as likely to develop true hypertension within a decade, compared to people with normal blood pressure levels.

How do you know if you have white coat hypertension and what should you do if you have it? The first step is for your doctor to have you monitor your blood pressure at home to see if it returns to normal levels. If it does, together, you and your doctor can decide whether to treat it or not. On one hand, if your blood pressure is normal during the rest of the day, taking blood pressure medications can lead to hypotension (low blood pressure). On the other hand, people with white coat hypertension might have elevated blood pressure during other stressful parts of the day. Many factors, such as age, family history, and the existence of other conditions will help the doctor make the right decision for you.

There are things that you can do to reduce your anxiety and stress before having your blood pressure checked by a health care professional. First, avoid drinking excessive amounts of water before checking your blood pressure because water can increase your reading. Also, do not participate in any physical activity before having your blood pressure taken. Excessive physical exertion will raise blood pressure. Lastly, avoid stressful situations and remain calm leading up to and during your visit to the doctor’s office.

If you think you have hypertension, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. If you do not have a primary care physician, call Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center at 718-670-5486 to schedule an appointment.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.