Most people think of hypertension as being an adult’s disease, but children get it too. Only about three percent of kids have high blood pressure, but studies show that the number is on the rise – due to the increase in obesity among kids. Most children with hypertension lead active lives, but what about sports participation? Should children with hypertension play competitive sports?
Exercising with hypertension
For uncomplicated hypertension, aerobic exercise has blood pressure lowering benefits. Exercise also reduces obesity which helps to lower pressures in children with hypertension – as well as offset their risk for diabetes. Children with hypertension need daily exercise to stay healthy and keep their blood pressures under control.
Childhood athletics for children with hypertension
According to recent recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children with hypertension who don’t have heart disease or organ damage from hypertension can safely participate in sports as long as their blood pressures are monitored by a physician at least every two months. Home monitoring or more frequent monitoring is even better.
The type of exercise a child does can affect their blood pressure readings. Static exercise such as lifting weights increases blood pressure more than aerobic exercise, which means that children who are involved in sports requiring static movements need very close monitoring. Children with severe hypertension should avoid competitive sports – particularly ones involving static movements such as pushing or lifting – until their blood pressures are brought under good control.
Children with high blood pressure who also have heart disease should avoid playing competitive sports and should be thoroughly evaluated by a cardiologist before participating in any type of strenuous exercise.
The bottom line
Most children with mild to moderate hypertension without complications can safely participate in sports as long as their blood pressures are monitored regularly and are kept under good control.
There have been reports of strokes occurring in children with hypertension during very strenuous exercise which means blood pressure monitoring is critical – and good pre-participation screening – preferably done by a pediatric cardiologist.