A new study in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association finds high blood pressure in children often goes untreated, since diagnosing kids is trickier than adults.
"It was not thought of as problem for a long time," Dr. Robert Wiprud of the Texas A&M Health Science Center said. "So doctors didn't think to measure it as they did in adults."
A new study suggests about two million children have high blood pressure, and 75 percent do not even know it.
"It's difficult for doctors to determine children have high blood pressure, because it's determined by their height and age, so it changes," Wiprud said. "In adults, it's typically one number that doctors recognize."
Doctors say measuring blood pressure in children also takes different equipment, such as smaller blood pressure cuffs, that are not always available in doctors' offices. However, with effects such as stroke, heart disease, and even kidney damage seen in adults with high blood pressure, a greater emphasis has been placed on checking children.
"Children that start off with high blood pressure at an early age, they have a significantly higher risk of developing these three bad problems when they get to be young adults," Wiprud said.
According to the study, children with high blood pressure are increasingly linked to another problem on the rise in kids, obesity.
"Children are less active and not playing outside. They are playing video games more and drinking regular sodas and drinks that have higher caloric sugar value," Wiprud said. "High blood pressure follows obesity very consistently. As the children are getting bigger, especially around the middle, we're seeing their blood pressure go up."
Doctors say good nutrition, regular exercise, and developing healthy lifestyle habits at an early age can help prevent high blood pressure from ever setting in.