The federal government today is to release new guidelines to help doctors assess high blood pressure in children and adolescents.
“This is an important change,” said Dr. Bonita Falkner, professor of pediatrics and medicine at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and chairwoman of the seven-member panel that developed the new guidelines. The older charts were based on a child’s age, whereas the new ones take into account recent findings that blood pressure in young people is more strongly correlated with height and weight.
“This avoids overdiagnosing high blood pressure in taller children and missing it in shorter ones,” said Falkner. The new guidelines were published in this month’s issue of Pediatrics.
The report recommends that doctors take two blood pressure readings, spaced five minutes apart, during a yearly childhood exam. Accurate assessment of blood pressure is important because it can rule out kidney disease, and it is also a marker for hypertension.