Children with high blood pressure are not as good at complicated, goal-directed tasks, have more working memory problems and are not as adept at planning as their peers without hypertension, according to recent research. If they are both hypertensive and obese, they are also more likely to have anxiety and depression.
Considering the demands on a child's brain both in continued development and in education and the fact that up to 10 percent of the increasing population of obese children have hypertension, these novel findings could give physicians and parents more impetus to diagnose and treat high blood pressure in children.
"These results were very surprising to me, despite similar findings in adults," said Marc Lande, M.D., a pediatric nephrologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and author of the paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics this month. "Adults with hypertension often have other problems that might affect cognition such as chronic disease, smoking or alcohol use. However, children with hypertension usually do not have these comorbidities."
In adults, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, heart attack, heart failure and kidney failure. Lande postulates that the cognitive changes demonstrated in this study may represent very early manifestations of hypertensive damage to the brain, which may long precede more overt damage such as stroke.
In addition, more than half the children with both hypertension and obesity demonstrated clinically significant anxiety and depression. Lande said he was initially looking at anxiety and depression only to rule out its interplay with executive function, which is a collection of cognitive abilities that help plan for and respond to complex situations; he did not expect to tease out this new finding.
"Children with only obesity or only hypertension did not have the anxiety and depression that children with both obesity and h
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University of Rochester Medical Center