Wow! High blood pressure in young adults?

Miriam asked with her face contorted as though she got hit by the smell of a decaying rodent. @thehealthcity had tweeted about the issue and she couldn't believe it.

The only people she knew with the condition were elderly-both her maternal and paternal Grandmas and 72-year-old Baba Isa who lived next door.

"So young people like me can have high blood pressure?" 
She asked rhetorically Like Miriam, many don't think that HBP can be a problem for the young but in fact, there are children and adolescents with the condition.

If you are like Miriam, you're on the right webpage. This piece will bring to light the facts about HBP in young adults and provide healthy tips against it.

Here we go!

What is High Blood Pressure?

High Blood Pressure, also known as Hypertension is a condition that affects the blood vessels. The vessels that supply blood to the organs (called arteries) become narrower than normal and result in the blood exerting more pressure on the vessels. This causes the heart to work harder as it pumps blood to the body.

This anomaly can go undetected for a long time without any symptoms and that's why HBP has earned a reputation as "the silent killer".

Two numbers -systolic and diastolic are used to denote blood pressure and are measured in millimetres of Mercury (mmHg). They are written just like a fraction (systolic/diastolic). The systolic refers to the blood pressure when the heart contracts to pump blood and the diastolic is the pressure when the heart relaxes after each contraction.

What is Normal Blood Pressure Value?

Normal blood pressure values differ between different ages. The American Heart Association notes that a normal blood pressure level for adults is less than 120 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and less than 80 mmHg for diastolic.

The Pediatric Critical Care Reference Guide by the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital shows the following as the normal blood pressure range in children and adolescents:Age Systolic Blood Pressure  Diastolic Blood Pressure 
Neonates 60-90 20-60
Infants 87-105 53-66
Toddlers 95-105 53-66
Preschoolers 95-110 56-70
School-aged children  97-112 57-71
Adolescents  112-128 66-80

A diagnosis of hypertension is made when the blood pressure is measured on two different days and remains elevated on both days. Your doctor will also take your medical history, examine you and do some tests to make the diagnosis.

What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

HBP is usually asymptomatic in its early stages. Remember the "silent killer" tag? 

It is therefore discovered during routine blood pressure checks. However, some symptoms like the following can also present in a hypertensive:

Visual disturbances
Chest pain
Difficulty in breathing. 
Types of High Blood Pressure

There are two types of HBP:

Primary (Essential) Hypertension: this is the common type of hypertension in children and adolescents. It is also the commonest in older adults. There is no identified cause for it though it is linked to genetics, age, and lifestyle factors.   Secondary Hypertension: this is also common in younger children. It arises from a pre-existing medical condition. Some conditions that can lead to secondary hypertension include:
Kidney diseases
Heart conditions 
Hormonal or endocrine diseases
Some medications 
What can Predispose Young Adults to High Blood Pressure?
Several factors can predispose children and adolescents to HBP. Some of these risk factors are preventable and knowing them can help you prevent the condition.

Some preventable factors are:

Obesity: Children with obesity are 3 times more at risk for HBP than non-obese children
Increased sodium (salt) intake
Increased intake of unhealthy fats
Smoking tobacco 
Substance abuse
Alcohol consumption 
Lack of physical activity

Factors that are not preventable are:

Genetics: a family history of HBP
African descent or black race Presence of an underlying medical condition e.g Kidney disease and Diabetes.

What are the Complications of High Blood Pressure?

Children and adolescents with uncontrolled hypertension are at risk of developing health conditions such as:
1.Heart failure
2.Heart attack
5.Kidney failure
6.Eye condition  
7.Cognitive disturbances

How can I Prevent High Blood Pressure as a Young Adult?
Although there are risk factors that can not be avoided as mentioned earlier, there are healthy lifestyle changes that can give you an upper hand against the silent killer. Here are some tips to help you stay afloat:

1.Exercise more often to keep a healthful weight and avoid obesity
2.Maintain a healthy diet: reduce your salt intake and avoid unsaturated and trans fats. Eat more fruits and veggies. 
3.Do not smoke or stay in places where people are smoking
4.Avoid or reduce your alcohol consumption 
5.Catch enough sleep.

If you already have HBP, in addition to the aforementioned tips, you should check your blood pressure regularly, comply with your medications and regularly see your doctor for check-ups.
Wrapping it up
High Blood Pressure is a condition that is deadly especially when not controlled. It's common in both adults and children/adolescents. However, the good news is that it is preventable and controllable with the right lifestyle. Start now to live healthily and slam hypertension with the stop sign.




Sorof, J., & Daniels, S. (2002). Obesity hypertension in children: a problem of epidemic proportions. Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 40(4), 441–447. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.hyp.0000032940.33466.12


Glorious Kate Akpegah

Glorious Kate Akpegah is a medical student at the University of Calabar. She enjoys writing health and wellness articles to help inform the public and promote a healthy lifestyle.

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