Screening children for high blood pressure is more difficult than screening adults, Minor added. "In children, you have to listen to sounds and changes in the blood pressure as well, and age, gender and size matter. The results have to be put into a percentile. Blood pressure readings aren't the same in children as they are in adults," she said.
The current study also identified several hurdles to getting accurate blood pressure readings in schools, including a need for qualified personnel to do the screenings. Scheduling testing in the school day and quieting children down beforehand to get a truer reading are challenges as well, the researchers found.
The researchers also discovered that there aren't really blood pressure cuffs made for overweight children, Minor said. A cuff made for adults is too long from shoulder to elbow, while a standard child-size cuff doesn't fit properly around the arm. Minor said she had a hard time finding the right cuff, and she expects that other health care providers will as well.
Dr. Michael Moritz, clinical director of pediatric nephrology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, agreed with Minor that one school-based screening can't diagnose high blood pressure in children.
"Hypertension is a dynamic variable. To really determine what hypertension is, it needs to be checked on three separate occasions," said Moritz.
"Nonetheless, this widespread screening showed a significant number of children with elevated blood pressure. And, when blood pressure is high, cardiac morbidity goes up. This study send
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