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Experts Dispute Value of Checking Kids' Blood Pressure
Date:2/25/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Despite a worrisome increase in obese and hypertensive children and teens, not enough evidence exists to justify routinely screening young people for high blood pressure, a new report says.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed existing research and concluded that it's unclear whether treating high blood pressure in children and adolescents controls hypertension long-term or leads to better heart health in adulthood.

Given the lack of convincing evidence either for or against screening, the panel has decided not to make any recommendation. However, it is calling for more research on the benefits and risks of screening.

The task force report, published online Feb. 25 in the journal Pediatrics, said doctors considering whether to screen or not should take into account "current scientific research, expert opinion, their own knowledge and experience, as well their patient's health history along with the preference of the patient and family."

In the United States, between 1 percent and 5 percent of children and teenagers have high blood pressure, and among obese youth, the rate is higher -- 11 percent, the task force said. The rise in childhood hypertension seen over the last few decades is probably a result of the obesity epidemic, the task force added.

In light of this increase, the panel's stance concerns some doctors.

"I hope pediatricians when they read this don't think because there is no established direct correlation between screening for hypertension [in kids] and cardiovascular risk factors in adulthood that screening doesn't need to be done," said Dr. Ana Paredes, director of renal research at Miami Children's Hospital in Florida, who had no part in the report.

"It is extremely important to screen children and adolescents for hypertension," she said. "That's the official position of the Amer
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