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Pediatricians Often Skip Blood Pressure Checks on Kids, Research Shows

Despite the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to have children undergo annual screenings for high blood pressure beginning at age 3, most pediatricians often skip it, a new study revealed.

According to lead researcher Daniel J. Shapiro from the University of California, San Francisco, pediatricians failed to comply with the recommendations of both health organizations at one-third of all routine checkups from the years 2000 to 2009.

These findings, according to Dr. Margaret Riley, are important because high blood pressure can pose adverse health effects on children in the long run. An assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, Dr. Riley, however, was not involved in this study.

“High blood pressure in children can lead to changes in the child’s heart and blood vessels and puts them at increased risk for heart disease and strokes as they get older,” Dr. Riley said.

Previous studies have shown that around 2 percent to 5 percent of children and adolescents in the US are suffering from high blood pressure.

Dr. Riley added that an underlying medical condition could be behind the child’s high blood pressure. Thus, blood pressure checks, she emphasized, are important because they can sometimes detect serious health problems early.

In 2001, blood pressure checks were taken 51 percent in all routine checkups. By 2009, the numbers improved to 71 percent.

“Over this time period, (health) providers may have become more aware of the recommendations of various professional organizations,” Mr. Shapiro said.

Senior researcher Dr. Anisha Patel added that should the child have high blood pressure, the doctor should ascertain if it is truly elevated. She noted that some elevated blood pressure levels reflect mere anxiety. Dr. Patel is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

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