High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease usually associated with adults, but children can get it too and can have serious health problems because of it. A new study is now calling for pediatricians to screen children more carefully for this disease. VOA's Carol Pearson explains.

It is sometimes difficult to determine if a child has high blood pressure because so many variables are involved. 

Dr. David Kaelber is a pediatrician who studied some 15,000 children's medical records spanning a seven-year period. "The way that normal and abnormal blood pressures are defined for children are --  it's based on their gender, it's based on their height percentile and it's also based on their age.  So the challenge here is that there's literally hundreds of normal and abnormal blood pressure values for children."

Plus, high blood pressure is something doctors may not be looking for, since hypertension is not normally associated with children.

In his study, Dr. Kaelber found that only a quarter of the children with high blood pressure were diagnosed. "To try to simplify this as much as possible, the more the child was like an adult, the more likely it was that their blood pressure would have been picked up."

In other words, doctors were more likely to catch the symptoms in children who are taller, older and heavier.  But Dr. Kaelber found children with normal weight and average height could also have high blood pressure.

Dr. Kaelber says his study should be a wake-up call for doctors to screen children for high blood pressure and take action before they develop other health complications. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Video courtesy of the Journal of The American Medical Association