A recent study indicates that a disturbing number of American children with high blood pressure go undiagnosed.  The study has prompted discussion worldwide about whether hypertension among children is just as prevalent in other countries.  VOA's Melinda Smith has more.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association was based on medical records of at least 14,000 children and teenagers in the metropolitan area of northeastern Ohio.  It concluded that only one-fourth of children with high blood pressure were correctly diagnosed.

Researchers in the study used the statistics they compiled to estimate the number of undiagnosed children across the United States.

Doctors say that obesity and the global popularity of the so-called western diet -- a diet high in fat, salt and sugar, as well a trend toward less exercise -- are major reasons for the increase in hypertension.

Heredity is also a factor.  If parents have high blood pressure, the child may also follow that trend. 

The study found that doctors often interpreted the numbers incorrectly, neglecting weight, height, sex and age when taking patients' blood pressure.

One of the study's authors, Dr. David Kaelber of Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, says doctors themselves should be more alert to these clues.

"What pediatricians are not doing enough is really concentrating on blood pressures that are taken and looking to see if they fall in the normal or abnormal range," he said.

One report from India says the U.S. hypertension study confirms similar findings among children in Delhi and Mumbai.  One Indian doctor agreed with his American colleagues that if high blood pressure is not curtailed during the early years, there will just be more damage caused by the time the child becomes an adult.

Again, Dr. David Kaelber. "Hopefully the study will be seen as a wakeup call, both for providers and really for parents and patients."