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Hypertension in children and adolescents: Definition, pathophysiology, risk factors, and long-term sequelae

Hypertension in children and adolescents: Definition, pathophysiology, risk factors, and long-term sequelae

Current Therapeutic Research 62(4): 283-297

Background: Awareness of hypertension as an adult public health issue has increased dramatically during the past 3 decades, leading to substantial decreases in morbidity and mortality related to stroke and coronary artery disease. Awareness of blood pressure issues in the pediatric population also has increased, leading to conceptual changes in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood hypertension. The current focus has shifted to early identification of mild to moderate hypertension in asymptomatic, otherwise healthy children and adolescents. Objective: The purpose of this article was to define hypertension in the pediatric population and describe the secondary causes of childhood hypertension, risk factors and potential pathophysiology of essential hypertension in childhood, and the long-term sequelae for individuals with hypertension identified during childhood. Methods: Information regarding pediatric hypertension was identified through a MEDLINE(R) search of the literature from 1985 to 2000. Results: Definitions of pediatric hypertension have been carefully refined over the past 30 years, and normative data are available for children and adolescents, based on age, sex, and height. Childhood hypertension may be identified during evaluation of an acutely ill child, but is increasingly identified during routine blood pressure screening, particularly in adolescents. Although, historically, most pediatric hypertension was believed to be secondary in origin (related to an identifiable underlying disorder), recent data suggest that almost 90% of hypertensive adolescents have essential hypertension. The proposed factors that may be involved in the pathophysiology of essential hypertension include familial and genetic influences, race, and salt sensitivity. Although an essential hypertension gene has not yet been identified, several monogenic forms of hypertension have been described, which may account for a minority of individuals with presumed essential hypertension. In addition, a number of candidate genes that may be involved in the complex genetic susceptibility to hypertension have been described. There is growing evidence concerning adverse long-term consequences of hypertension identified in childhood and adolescence, including increased incidence of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. Conclusions: Based on the generally accepted concept that essential hypertension begins in childhood, early optimization of blood pressure control in childhood may reduce an individual's lifetime risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. In addition, aggressive treatment of cardiovascular risk factors during childhood and adolescence may have a major impact on the prevalence of adult cardiovascular disease.

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Accession: 010773697

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DOI: 10.1016/s0011-393x(01)80013-8

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