Hypertension  (Source:
A recent study published online in the September 2016 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics found that children and adolescents who have hypertension or high blood pressure are more likely to have poor cognitive skills. Hypertension is considered a condition in which there is elevated blood pressure in the arteries causing the heart to pump harder.


Normally a condition found in adults, an increasing number of children are being diagnosed with primary hypertension. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians hypertension may affect about 3-4 percent of children and adolescents ages 8-17 years old. Similar to adults, hypertension in children is linked to risk factors such as obesity, unhealthy and poor diet, genetics and or lack/of physical activities.


Image result for hypertension children cognitive performanceThe study led by researchers from University of Rochester assessed the cognitive skills of 150 children aged 10-18 years old; 75 had newly diagnosed hypertension while 75 had blood pressure in the normal range.


Results of the study indicated that children with hypertension performed worse on visual skills, visual and verbal memory and processing speed tests.


They also found that children with sleep problems were more likely to have high blood pressure. These results are consistent with research that shows that sleep apnea, is a common complication associated with hypertension, particularly in children. Sleep apnea is a condition in which an individual snores or exhibits abnormal breathing while sleeping, and may be more prevalent in children with hypertension who are overweight.   


High Blood Pressure or HypertensionDespite the outcomes of the study, the researchers concluded that the results “should not be a cause for concern”. Authors of the study reported that the results seem to only indicate that hypertension might lead to poor cognitive performance, rather than cognitive impairment. However, they do seem to emphasize the need for early identification and management of hypertension in children.



Results of the study, although modest, have significant implications for public health and medical professionals. First the practical implications of this study show the need to identify children and youth with hypertension and be able to treat this condition while it is in the early stages of development. Secondly, the results also seem to highlight the need for sleep in order to help regulate cognitive functioning. This is especially important for those with hypertension, as the impact of lack of sleep could have a worse effect on the cognitive performance. A third implication of this study is how hypertension may be associated with organ damage in the brain.

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More research is needed to determine the short and long term effects of antihypertensive medications and how addressing cardiovascular risk factors could present an opportunity to impact cognitive challenges facing youth with newly diagnosed hypertension




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