Purpose: To provide nurse practitioners (NPs) with updated information regarding the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of childhood hypertension.
Data sources: Extensive review of the scientific literature regarding hypertension, including the latest NIH recommendations.
Conclusions: Hypertension affects more than 350,000 American children. While the majority of hypertension in early childhood occurs from secondary causes, the incidence of essential hypertension in later childhood and adolescence is rising, raising concerns as elevated pressures in childhood "track" into adulthood. Early detection and treatment of elevated childhood pressures represent important steps in reducing long-term cardiovascular risk.
Implications for practice: NPs must be able to accurately differentiate between primary and secondary hypertension in childhood. Secondary hypertension requires prompt diagnosis and treatment, and controlling primary childhood hypertension has lifelong implications. Given the familial predisposition to hypertension, it is important for adult NPs to be aware of the risks faced by children of hypertensive patients.