Kids blood pressures not checked often enough

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In 2008, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute both recommended that yearly screening for high blood pressure should begin as early as age three. However, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics, pediatricians are still failing to take kids blood pressure at about one-third of routine check-ups.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco based their findings on data from two annual government surveys of doctors practices and emergency rooms, dating from 2000 to 2009. Led by medical student Daniel J. Shapiro, the researchers found that during routine check-ups, pediatricians were measuring children s blood pressure only two-thirds of the time.

Furthermore, during all pediatric visits including visits for an illness or injury blood pressure was checked even less frequently: only one-third of the time. If a child is ill, in pain, or crying, a doctor might not want to check blood pressure because it could be falsely elevated, points out Dr. Margaret Riley, professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study.

Although the percentage of pediatricians taking blood pressure during routine check-ups has improved, increasing from 51 percent to 71 percent between 2001 and 2009, children are still not being screened for hypertension and pre-hypertension frequently enough.

Parents should ask their child s physician if the blood pressure was measured, and if so, if it was a concerning reading, said Dr. Anisha Patel, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco and the senior researcher on the study. If blood pressure readings are continuously high, parents may need to see a specialist to uncover any medical condition that could be causing the problem.

When between two to five percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. have high blood pressure, it s imperative for pediatricians to routinely measure it, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. Failure to do this is unacceptable, especially when children with high blood pressure will often suffer health ramifications in the long run.