About High Blood Pressure in Kids and Teens

Key points

  • 1 in 25 youth ages 12 to 19 have high blood pressure, also called hypertension.
  • 1 in 10 has elevated blood pressure (higher than normal, previously called “prehypertension”).
  • High blood pressure is more common in youth with obesity.
  • High blood pressure in youth is linked to health problems later in life.
Children playing tug-of-war

Study finds many young people have high blood pressure

CDC analyzed data from more than 12,000 children ages 12 to 19 who responded to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001 to 2016.

CDC used these data to find out how the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Clinical Practice Guideline affects hypertension trends in youth over time.

Key findings from the CDC study showed the following:

  • High blood pressure in youth has decreased, but youth are still at risk.
  • Between 2001 and 2016, the prevalence of high blood pressure declined as measured by both the new and former guidelines.
  • Youth ages 18 to 19 account for about half of the increase, and males account for more than two-thirds.
  • There are still many young people with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes.
  • Even with this downward trend, under the new guidelines (from 2017) more youth are classified as having high blood pressure than 15 years ago under the former guideline (from 2003).
  • The new guideline changes the numbers and uses a lower value for high blood pressure.
  • Compared to the former guideline, the updated guideline reclassifies 2.6% of youth in the United States, or nearly 800,000 young people, as having high blood pressure.
  • Nearly half of these newly reclassified young people have obesity. Obesity in youth means having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the 95th percentile. (Calculate your child's BMI.)
  • Using the new guideline's criteria, CDC found that more than 1 in 7 US youth ages 12 to 19 had high blood pressure during 2013 to 2016.
  • An estimated 1.3 million youth ages 12 to 19 would have high blood pressure according to the new guidelines, or about 1 in 25 children.
  • In a classroom of 30 youth, 1 would have hypertension, and about 3 more would have elevated blood pressure.

Risks for CVD that start in childhood are more likely to carry over into adulthood. Youth who have CVD risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, are more likely to have these risk factors as adults, putting them at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

A healthy diet and regular exercise are important to reducing these risk factors. Ensuring that youth are eating a healthy diet and getting enough physical activity is crucial to helping prevent cardiovascular disease.

Learn More‎

Read the 2017 AAP Clinical Practice Guideline for Screening and Management of High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents.

Listen to a CDC podcast about hypertension among youth.

What can parents do?

Ask your doctor to measure your child's blood pressure starting at age 3. Helping children keep a healthy weight, eat nutritious foods, and get regular physical activity can lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. Try these tips to help your child keep a healthy weight and normal blood pressure:

Food and drinks

  • Offer nutritious, lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables in place of foods high in added sugars and solid fats. Try serving more fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks.
  • Provide foods that are low in sodium (salt). Sodium raises blood pressure. Nearly 9 in 10 US children eat more sodium than is recommended. Learn more about sodium.
  • Make sure water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary drinks, and limit juice.

Physical activity

Healthy weight

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