NATIONAL (NBC) - High blood pressure among teens is on the rise and, as recent research shows, the problem too often goes undiagnosed. But one high school has a pro-active approach to help keep kids healthy.
William Lee is a high school junior in good physical shape. So he was shocked to find out he had high blood pressure. "I thought people that had a heavier weight set would be, like, had to be more at risk at getting high blood pressure than me, because I'm at a normal weight."
Truth is, a lot of people, including kids, are walking around with hypertension and don't even know it. Dr. Leigh Ettinger says, "It's considered the silent killer. It sneaks up on people, they're without any symptoms."
Now a high school screening test could provide a wake up call to parents. Dr. Ettinger says, "Last year we screened 600 kids and we found about 140 in pre-hypertension range, so a big chunk with that warning sign."
Untreated, high blood pressure can eventually lead to a stroke, loss of vision, kidney disease or a heart attack. But early on, studies show, it can affect the brain. Dr. Ettinger explains, "It's been found that kids with high blood pressure do poorly on standardized tests when compared to normal, children with normal high blood pressures. So they are having some neurologic effects even from this high blood pressure at a young age."
Once the students have been tested, the school fills parents in on their score and provides recommendations on health and lifestyle changes. Dr. Ettinger says, "The truly hypertensive children, they get the letters that say that they should be seen by their pediatrician within a few weeks so that they can be evaluated and make sure that this isn't a true problem that's going to cause consequences in the future."
Hypertension in teens is usually a sign of an underlying problem. A thorough exam by a doctor can weed out the culprit.