Medical experts believe that high blood pressure or hypertension is common among adults.
However, recent reports of rising cases of hypertension among children have been a serious source of concern to many observers.
The development is a worldwide phenomenon, as Nigeria has also recorded instances of such strange medical cases.
For instance, a 10-year-old boy, Chinonso Ezeora, was recently diagnosed as having high blood pressure at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada.
As expected, Chinonso’s parents were devastated by the news, particularly because of the implication of the ailment on the young boy’s future and well-being.
Chinonso’s parents lamented that although their son looked quite healthy a routine check-up revealed that he was hypertensive.
At the hospital, a paediatrician, Dr Solomon Adeleke, could not immediately ascertain what was actually wrong with the young boy.
He decided to re-check Chinonso’s blood pressure and he was surprised to discover that the pressure had shot up to an alarmingly high level of 80/200.
Blood pressure is the force of a person’s blood pushing against the walls of the arteries each time the heart beats and medical experts approve a blood pressure level of 80/120 or less as normal.
Therefore, Dr Adeleke was extremely worried about Chinonso’s case, imagining what could have made the young boy to develop high blood pressure.
His curiosity drew the attention of other medical experts and they concertedly carried out thorough medical examinations on the boy.
In the course of their examinations, the experts discovered that Chinonso had a tumour in between his kidney and a blood vessel.
A surgical operation was performed on the boy to remove the tumour and his blood pressure soon dropped to the normal level.
Adeleke explained that such abnormalities might cause hypertension and other health complications among children.
He said that the abnormalities might not be discovered on time, adding that they could only be revealed through thorough medical examinations.
“We have found out that most children with hypertension usually have kidney problems.
“All these congenital abnormalities can also lead to high blood pressure in children.
“Another factor is endocrine problem, when the intestine is not in proper position, it can also lead to hypertension in children,’’ he added.
What then are the best ways to manage children with high blood pressure problems?
Adeleke underscored the need to conduct further medical examinations on a child diagnosed with high blood pressure.
He said that in most cases, there must be a secondary cause of high blood pressure among children, unlike adults whose hypertension was primarily induced by stress and other conditions.
He stressed the need to check the blood pressure of children, even babies, once in a while so as to avoid unforeseen health complications.
Adeleke conceded that high blood pressure in children and adolescents had become a growing health problem, which was often overlooked by most physicians.
Medical experts, however, insist that the causative factors of hypertension among children include obesity.
Nevertheless, an online medical journal, Buzzle, states that although child obesity is on the rise, it is not the only reason why children are increasingly diagnosed with hypertension.
“For instance, if high blood pressure is prevalent in the family, then the child too may suffer from blood pressure problems,’’ it says.
The journal lists the other factors that can cause hypertension in children as heart problems, kidney disorders, malfunctioning of the adrenal gland, high cholesterol levels and diabetes, among others.
It, nonetheless, stresses the need to look into the family history of children with newly diagnosed hypertension, while conducting physical examinations on them.
Beyond that, another paediatrician, Dr Eugene Madaki, said that children with hypertension should also be screened for other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes.
He corroborated Adeleke’s claim that hypertension in children could be treated via changes in lifestyle and planned efforts to engender a weight loss for those who are overweight or obese.
Madaki warned against the tendency to believe that hypertension was predominantly a disease of elderly persons, insisting that the youth, children and even babies could have high blood pressure.
He, therefore, stressed the need for people to undergo regular health checks, so as to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment of hypertension and also prevent its harmful consequences in children or adults.
Madaki stressed that hypertension was a silent killer if tangible efforts were not made to manage it on time.
All the same, the American Heart Association warned that since symptoms alone were not enough to signify the presence of high blood pressure in a person, it was pertinent to know potential risk factors such as knowing one’s family medical history.
The association also recommended that all children should be subjected to periodic blood pressure measurements to ensure early detection of hypertension.
It said that early detection of high blood pressure would aid efforts to manage the health condition in affected children and forestall the evolution of life-threatening complications.
Nwachukwu writes for NAN.