Tighter high blood pressure guidelines for children might better spot those at risk for heart disease in adulthood, a new study suggests.
Compared to 2004 guidelines, the updated 2017 guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics increased the number of children considered to have high blood pressure.
But it wasn’t known if the new guidelines would help predict children who were at higher risk for premature heart disease.
“We concluded that compared with children with normal blood pressure, those reclassified as having elevated or high blood pressure were more likely to develop adult high blood pressure, thickening of the heart muscle wall and the metabolic syndrome — all risk factors for heart disease,” said senior study author Dr. Lydia Bazzano. She is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, in New Orleans.
For the study, her team tracked data from the Bogalusa Heart Study, which enrolled nearly 4,000 participants at ages 3 to 18, and has followed them for 36 years.
The researchers found that 11% of participants were identified as having high blood pressure using the 2017 guidelines, compared with 7% under the 2004 guidelines.
In addition, the findings showed that 19% of those with high blood pressure under the 2017 guidelines developed thickening of the heart muscle during the follow-up period, compared with 12% of those with high blood pressure under 2004 guidelines.
The study was published April 22 in the journal Hypertension.
Bazzano noted that not all children identified with high blood pressure under the new guidelines will require medication.
“For most children with high blood pressure that is not caused by a separate medical condition or a medication, lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of treatment,” Bazzano said in a journal news release.
“It’s important to maintain a normal weight, avoid excess salt, get regular physical activity and eat a healthy diet that is high in fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, lean protein and limited in salt, added sugars, saturated and trans fats to reduce blood pressure,” she explained.
The American Heart Association has more on high blood pressure in children.