High Blood Pressure In Teenagers: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Explained

High blood pressure is a common health risk often associated with older people. However, the number of teenagers affected by high blood pressure has considerably risen in recent years.

Common causes of hypertension in teenagers may include:

  • Obesity

  • Health conditions like diabetes

  • Pregnancy

  • An unhealthy lifestyle

  • Family history

  • Alcohol

  • Stress

  • Certain medications

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension – frequently referred to as high blood pressure – results from the increase in the force of blood flowing through your arteries as the heart pumps blood.

The normal blood pressure for adults and 18 and 19-year-olds is below 120/80mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). For teens below 18 years, their normal blood pressure is based on the percentile rating for their age, height, and gender.

The higher your blood pressure, the greater the risk of developing significant health conditions like a heart attack, heart disease, or stroke

Is it normal for a teenager to have high blood pressure?

High blood pressure commonly develops as people advance in age. It affects approximately 66% of people above 65 years old, and about 100 million American adults¹ are affected by high blood pressure.

There has been a significant rise in the diagnosis of high blood pressure amongst children and teenagers due to the obesity epidemic. Nearly 800,000 young people in the US² are affected by high blood pressure.

Symptoms of high blood pressure in teens

Typically, high blood pressure may not have warning signs or symptoms, which is why it’s called 'the silent killer.' It is estimated that 46% of adults³ with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition. The only way to know for sure you have high blood pressure is by having your blood pressure measured. This is easy and completely painless, and you can do it yourself at home or have a health practitioner measure it for you.

Like most diseases, if high blood pressure is detected early, it's easier to prevent its advancement into severe medical conditions that could lead to death.

Although many people won’t experience any signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, some individuals may do so, and these can include:

  • Early morning headaches

  • Nausea

  • Nosebleeds

  • Buzzing in ears

  • Vomiting

  • Chest pain

  • Nosebleeds

  • Irregular heart rhythms

  • Anxiety

  • Muscle tremors

What are the common causes of high blood pressure in teenagers?

Obesity

The obesity epidemic in the US is affecting young teenagers at an alarming rate. Many teenagers lead lives⁴ full of sitting and with little physical activity, preferring to spend most of their time playing video games or glued to their screens. As a result, many are gaining weight and increasing their risk of becoming obese, which leads to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

Health conditions

Some medical conditions like diabetes or kidney diseases could cause hypertension. Therefore, your medical history is important as it can help your doctor determine the possible causes for your high blood pressure. Your doctor will consider any pre-existing conditions you may have and use them to decide whether or not they could be related to your high blood pressure.

Pregnancy

High blood pressure is common in pregnant women, including pregnant teenage girls. High blood pressure must be monitored and managed during pregnancy since it may put both the mother and the unborn child at risk of pregnancy complications. Often, it disappears after childbirth but sometimes may continue during or after delivery, resulting in significant complications.

Smoking

Currently, there are more teenagers than ever smoking, which negatively affects their health.

Smoking is associated⁵ with an increased chance of developing high blood pressure. Smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke increases the risk of accumulation of fatty plaque in blood vessels, resulting in the narrowing of blood vessels, causing blood pressure to rise.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices

High blood pressure can also be caused by the lifestyle choices we make. High blood pressure is prevalent among teenagers who binge on large amounts of junk food that contain excessive salt,  saturated and trans fats. Such an unhealthy diet increases cholesterol levels, which is a major contributor to high blood pressure. It does not help that many of them also eat very few healthy fruits and veggies and do not engage in physical activity.

Irregular sleeping habits⁶ are another unhealthy lifestyle choice that many teenagers adopt today. Studies⁷ have linked poor sleeping habits to high blood pressure amongst teens.

Family history

If multiple family members have been affected by hypertension, you're more likely to suffer from high blood pressure too. The upside to this is that if you know about your family history, you can catch your high blood pressure early, and your doctor can recommend the appropriate treatment to help manage it.

Alcohol and drugs

Underage drinking and substance abuse⁸ have become a significant problem in the US. Alcohol⁹ and drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine¹⁰ have major adverse effects on your body and worsen high blood pressure.

Stress

Stress and anxiety are also common causes of high blood pressure. Teenagers are at a tender and vulnerable age where they are more emotionally and mentally sensitive to situations going on in their lives. If they don't have a way to express themselves and bottle everything up, they can get stressed easily.

Many teenagers deal with emotional stress, mental health issues, and academic stress¹¹ that may spiral out of control if they do not get appropriate counseling or mental health treatment. Many of these teens become stressed and anxious and, as a result, may develop high blood pressure.

Medication

When diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to let your doctor know about any drugs you have been taking, as some could cause your high blood pressure. These medications include birth control pills, cold medicines, diet pills, and some antipsychotic and migraine medicines.

How high blood pressure is treated in teens

There are a couple of ways to control and keep your high blood pressure in check. For example, making lifestyle changes is a good first step in maintaining your blood pressure at the normal range.

You can go over available treatment options with your doctor, and they'll suggest those that can help manage your blood pressure better. These include:

Managing stress

Stress management has shown significant benefits in the control of high blood pressure. You can reduce your stress levels in the following ways:

  • Getting a good night's rest. Health experts recommend that teenagers sleep for at least eight hours every night to maintain normal blood pressure levels.

  • Strengthen your social networks to avoid stress and anxiety.

  • Include relaxation techniques like breathing exercises as part of your daily routine.

  • Improve your problem-solving skills to handle stressful situations better.

  • Do not hesitate to ask for help from the people closest to you if you feel stressed.

  • Take it easy. Simplify your schedule to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Maintaining a healthy diet

A healthy diet is a balanced diet that contains vegetables, lean proteins, fruits, low-fat dairy products, healthy oils such as olive oil, and whole grains. Some doctors will even give you a strict diet designed to lower your blood pressure.

Healthy diets help lower your cholesterol levels, minimizing the risk of high blood pressure and reducing the chances of it progressing to a dangerous level. Teenagers need to maintain a healthy diet to keep their high blood pressure under control and boost their general well-being.

Avoid smoking

You should also try to quit smoking since it will only hinder your progress in lowering your blood pressure and, in fact, make it worse. Your doctor can help you to quit cigarettes or other tobacco products.

Physical activity

Exercise is highly beneficial for our general physical health, and you should try to participate in some form of aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes a day. You can talk to your doctor if you're unsure what activities to engage in. Common exercises such as swimming, stretches, morning runs, and even daily walks are a good place to start.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Weight loss brings about many health benefits, including reducing high blood pressure. Being overweight overburdens your heart, which can result in increased blood pressure. Losing weight will lift this strain on your heart, lower blood pressure and minimize the chances of your high blood pressure causing further health issues.

Cutting down alcohol consumption

Cutting back on your alcohol intake will result in a significant shift in your blood pressure levels so that it’s closer to the normal range. Consider the reasons why you’re drinking and whether it’s really necessary to do so, in addition to how you can improve your health for the better by not drinking alcohol. If you feel like you might have a drinking problem, seek help from a counselor or even attend rehab to get your drinking in check.

Blood pressure medication

There are a variety of medications that are prescribed to treat high blood pressure. Every medication has its benefits and side effects that you and your doctor must carefully consider to find which best suits your treatment. Doctors can provide more than one medication to control your blood pressure better and lower it to the optimal range.

Here are some tips to take into account while taking blood pressure medication:

  • Medication alone may not help. Make healthy lifestyle changes while taking the medication to see better results. This may even help you lower the dosage you require to lower your blood pressure.

  • Inform your healthcare provider about all the drugs you take, including vitamins, supplements, or over-the-counter medication, since some of these drugs may affect your blood pressure. Some of these drugs may also affect the efficiency of your high blood pressure medication.

  • You should take blood pressure meds at the same time every day. If you forget your dose one day, do not double your dose the following day.

Complications of untreated or uncontrolled high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a life-threatening condition on its own. Without an appropriate diagnosis and treatment, it can cause severe damage to major organs like the brain, eyes, kidneys, heart.

High blood pressure decreases blood flow to your heart, reducing the available oxygen needed to function properly. This reduced blood flow can result in heart complications like chest pain, irregular heartbeats, heart attack, heart failure, or sudden death.

In the brain, high blood pressure may cause blockage of arteries or result in bursting of these arteries causing the diminished blood supply to the brain. Less blood supply to the brain means low oxygen delivery, which can cause a stroke. High blood pressure may also lead to the kidneys functioning inadequately and, ultimately, kidney failure.

When should you take a teen to see a doctor for high blood pressure?

You should take your teen to the doctor to measure their blood pressure if:

  • High blood pressure runs in the family – They should see the doctor to assess if they are genetically predisposed to high blood pressure and whether any early prevention treatment is needed.

  • They are overweight – This increases their chances of developing high blood pressure, and you should contact your healthcare provider to learn proper ways to shed some pounds and improve their lifestyle to reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

  • Their blood pressure is higher than 180/120mmHg – They should take a five-minute rest before their blood pressure is rechecked. If it remains above 180/120mmHg, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Prescribed medications don't seem to lower their blood pressure – They should see the doctor and go over other treatment plans.

The lowdown

High blood pressure is a condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Contrary to popular belief, high blood pressure does not just affect older adults but also teenagers.

Obesity, pre-existing medical conditions, genetic predisposition, unhealthy lifestyle choices, smoking, alcohol and drug consumption, stress, and certain medications are some causes of hypertension among teenagers.

As concerning as high blood pressure is among teenagers, there are ways to prevent and manage it. These include stress management, weight loss, proper medication, avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and consuming healthy diets. Teenagers can implement these changes into their day-to-day lives to improve their health for many years to come.

Have you considered clinical trials for High blood pressure?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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