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Overweight kids often left in the dark about their high blood pressure

November 05, 2018

DALLAS, Nov. 5, 2018 -- Pediatricians generally don't address elevated blood pressures in overweight children during well-child visits. When they do broach the subject, their communication is often unclear, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2018, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

Researchers analyzed 30 video- and audio-recorded well-child visits of 6- to 12-year-olds with overweight/obesity who had elevated blood pressures at the visit. Visits were recorded from 2013 to 2016. Eighty percent of the children had elevated blood pressures, and 20 percent had blood pressure readings at the recorded visit plus two or more past visits that were high enough to meet criteria for pediatric hypertension. Researchers found pediatricians:
  • provided clear and direct information about high blood pressure in 16.6 percent of visits;

  • made unclear statements in 16.6 percent of visits -- for example: "The biggest reason I worry about this [obesity] is you can start having adult problems like high blood pressure"; and

  • frequently didn't address high blood pressure at all (66.7 percent of visits).
Researchers noted that providers were more likely to use more direct communication when children had systolic blood pressures that exceeded the adult high blood pressure threshold.

Researchers also looked at communication themes such as therapeutic lifestyle counseling and follow-up information, each of which they found occurred in 10 percent of visits. Of the 20 percent of children who met criteria for the diagnosis of pediatric hypertension, not one received communication about this diagnosis from pediatricians during the recorded visits.
-end-
Note: Scientific presentation is 2:15 p.m. CT, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

Nora Bismar, B.S., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX

Additional Resources:Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

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