Objective: Most studies assess the prevalence of hypertension in pediatric populations based on blood pressure (BP) readings taken on a single visit. We determined the prevalence of hypertension measured on up to three visits in a Swiss pediatric population and examined the association between hypertension and overweight and selected other factors.
Methods: Anthropometric data and BP were measured in all children of the sixth school grade of the Vaud canton (Switzerland) in 2005-2006. 'Elevated BP' was defined according to sex-specific, age-specific and height-specific US reference data. BP was measured on up to two additional visits in children with elevated BP. 'Hypertension' was defined as 'elevated BP' on all three visits.
Results: Out of 6873 children, 5207 (76%) participated [2621 boys, 2586 girls; mean (SD) age, 12.3 (0.5) years]. The prevalence of elevated BP was 11.4, 3.8 and 2.2% on first, second and thirds visits, respectively; hence 2.2% had hypertension. Among hypertensive children, 81% had isolated systolic hypertension. Hypertension was associated with excess body weight, elevated heart rate and parents' history of hypertension. Of the children, 16.1% of boys and 12.4% of girls were overweight or obese (CDC criteria, body mass index >or= 85th percentile). Thirty-seven percent of cases of hypertension could be attributed to overweight or obesity.
Conclusions: The proportion of children with elevated BP based on one visit was five times higher than based on three measurements taken at few-week intervals. Our data re-emphasize the need for prevention and control of overweight in children to curb the global hypertension burden.