U.S. task force says not enough evidence to warrant testing hypertension in kids and teens.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (TF) has just stated officially that there is “not enough solid evidence” to recommend screening children and adolescents for high blood pressure, because it is difficult to predict whether they will develop the condition as adults.

This decision comes despite a growing number of children and teens with in hypertension in recent years largely due to obesity, and several expert clinical recommendations to screen them. While recognizing the importance of heart health for all, including children and adolescents, TF member Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D. explained that they “don’t know if lowering blood pressure in youth leads to improved cardiovascular health in adulthood. We also don’t know the long term benefits and harms for children and adolescents who initiate blood pressure medications when they are young. While there is much we don’t know, we do know that eating a healthy diet, being active, and maintaining a normal weight are ways children and teens can improve their cardiovascular health.”

In a statement, the TF explained that their recommendation applies specifically to children and teens with no signs or symptoms of hypertension or an underlying health problem. It also only applies to primary hypertension and not secondary hypertension, which is usually caused by an underlying condition and treated as part of the management of that condition.

The decision was based on a TF review of related studies released since 2003, which was the last time they examined this topic and also found not enough evidence regarding the benefits or problems of screening. They point out that “a statement is not a recommendation for or against screening,” but in the absence of clear evidence, “health care professionals should consider a number of things: the current scientific research, expert opinion, their own knowledge and experience as well their patient’s health history along with the values and preference of the patient and family.”

The TF calls on the scientific community to do more research to link screening and hypertension treatment in children and teens to their long-term cardiovascular health.

The Task Force is an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.

 

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