The team found that of the 507 children who had hypertension in that group, just 26 percent had been diagnosed with the disorder. Factors making it more likely a child would be diagnosed with hypertension were older age, taller height, obesity and having more than three abnormal blood pressure readings.
"Those more at risk of having hypertension undiagnosed were children who were younger, shorter and those who didn't have an obesity-related diagnosis," said Kaelber.
Results of the study appear in the Aug. 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The good news from this study, explained Kaelber, is that the problem is relatively easy to fix by using electronic medical records. If doctors had a simple software program that could calculate blood pressure based on a child's age, gender and height, and then flag abnormal readings, fewer children would go undiagnosed.
"This study illustrates that there's so much information in health care that's difficult for one person to process, but in a computerized world you don't have to depend on one person," he said.
Dr. Rick Kaskel, chief of pediatric nephrology at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City, agreed.
"If you had a system where you could put in the age, gender and height, and the system would automatically give you the upper and lower limits for that child, you could see immediately if they're above or below normal," said Kaskel.
Right now, however, he said it's important for parents to realize that high blood pressure can and does occur in children. And, as in adults, hypertension can usually be prevented by making healthy diet and exercise choices, and maintaining a normal weight.
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