Hypertension in adolescents

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In adults, hypertension has long been perceived as a public health problem. By contrast, its impact in childhood is far less appreciated. In fact, quite often, high blood pressure in children is not even diagnosed. Blood pressure is a vital sign that is routinely obtained during a physical examination of adults, but only very seldom in children. The diagnosis of hypertension in children is complicated because ‘normal’ blood pressure values vary with age, sex and height. As a consequence, almost 75% of the cases of arterial hypertension and 90% of the cases of prehypertension in children and adolescents are currently undiagnosed. Furthermore, adolescence hypertension is increasing in prevalence as the prevalence of pediatric obesity has increased. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is a useful method for risk evaluation in adolescents. In addition to being viewed as an important cardiovascular risk factor in adolescents, elevated blood pressure should prompt a thorough search for other modifiable risk factors that, if treated, might reduce teenagers' risk of developing cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Thus, assessing blood pressure values in children represents one of the most important measurable markers of cardiovascular risk later in life and a major step in preventive medicine.

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