Srinagar: A routine check-up for a 15-year-old Asif turned out to be a shocker. His parents were baffled to know that their adolescent son had developed elevated blood pressure or hypertension.
“His father constantly asked me how this is possible at such a young age. The reason was obesity and having a poor lifestyle which majorly contributed to the young patient’s high blood pressure levels,” the doctor treating him said.
Not only Asif but many children and adolescents are also diagnosed with hypertension in Kashmir. It is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. Usually, hypertension is defined as blood pressure above 140/90 and is considered severe if the pressure is above 180/120.
Many times, the parents are unable to understand that the problem can occur at a young age and demands proper treatment and lifestyle changes.
Sample this: Adil, 11, was diagnosed with hypertension during his check-up for the endocrine disorder.
“The child was already suffering from an endocrine disorder for which he had undergone due treatment. Additionally, he had developed a problem of high blood pressure. We prescribed him a proper lifestyle modification involving physical activity, diet, sleep pattern, and stress management,” the lifestyle medicine specialist treating him said.
The prevalence of systemic hypertension among children appears to be increasing in Kashmir especially in view of the growing population of children with obesity and increasing survival of neonates after getting critical care for weeks and increasing screening of blood pressure in routine outpatient visits.
Dr. Rabbanie Tariq, Preventive Medicine Physician promoting Lifestyle Medicine in Kashmir said they have come across a number of patients from the child and adolescent group who had elevated blood pressure diagnosed by a pediatrician.
“They were referred for Lifestyle Modifications relevant to their risk factors responsible for the onset of hypertension. A lot of times hypertension is discovered as a coincidental finding in patients,” Dr. Rabbanie said.
He said there are multiple factors responsible for the increase in the frequency of hypertension in this age group. “In addition, to the secondary Hypertension for which certain organic causes are responsible which can be related to a certain organ or endocrine issues. There are more important reasons too. Habits are inculcated from the external environment. Children and adolescents are exposed to poor lifestyle due to change in standards of living, high-calorie diet, junk foods, less physical activity, stressful competition, increased screen time and genetic modifications introduced through chronic poor lifestyle in the parental generation,” Dr. Rabbanie said.
High blood pressure, according to the doctor, usually doesn’t have any symptoms.
“However, signs and symptoms that might indicate a high blood pressure emergency include Headaches, Seizures, Vomiting, Chest pains, Fast, pounding or fluttering heartbeat (palpitations), Shortness of breath. Such symptoms may need to be evaluated by the expert,” Dr. Rabbanie said.
Pediatrician and Lecturer GMC, Srinagar, Dr. Suhail Naik said the persistence of high blood pressure is a matter of concern.
“The long term hypertension causes irreversible changes in vessels of the brain, heart, eye, and kidneys. Patients with chronic hypertension are at risk of kidney failure, strokes, or heart attacks later in life,” Dr. Naik said.
A recent study titled, “Prevalence of Hypertension among school children in Kashmir, India,” was conducted by the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology, Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital, Srinagar, Department of Pediatrics, Government Medical College, Srinagar.
It was done over a period of one year in school-going children aged 11 to 16 years from both urban and rural areas of Kashmir valley.
The study found that the prevalence of hypertension was 5.1% and the prevalence of prehypertension was 9.3%.
“Thus, hypertension is not uncommon in Kashmiri children. With globalization bringing more lifestyle modifications, children are exposed to multiple risk factors including obesity and family history of hypertension,” the study said.
The study emphasized that there is a need to make people aware of these facts so that blood pressure measurement could be a part of routine health care check-up in children to detect it early and do necessary interventions.
Dr. Naik said hypertension can be prevented as well as managed/controlled to a great extent by lifestyle modifications except for the causes which require essential medical treatment
“People are advised to cut salt intake, stop junk food, and schedule a daily 30 minutes’ family exercise program to stay healthy. Furthermore, kids who are obese, have a history of admission in critical care units and family history of hypertension should be periodically screened for hypertension,” he said.