The early onset of hypertension among children and adolescents is becoming increasingly concerning, according to health experts at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). During a recent briefing in recognition of May as Hypertension Awareness Month, experts highlighted the rising prevalence of high blood pressure in young populations and stressed the importance of early detection and intervention.

"About 15-20 percent of children and adolescents aged between 10-19 have hypertension more than what is normal at their age," said Dr. Sumit Malhotra, Professor, Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS. He described this trend as "alarming" and emphasised that high blood pressure can lead to serious health issues such as brain strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease, and retinal problems.

One of the critical challenges identified by Dr. Malhotra is the lack of awareness about blood pressure status. Many individuals remain unaware of their condition, and even those who are aware often do not seek treatment. Dr. Malhotra underscored the necessity of accurately measuring blood pressure and initiating early treatment to mitigate long-term health risks.

Schools and educational institutions play a crucial role in promoting health among young people. "Schools and educational institutes are very important platforms for a healthy young generation, to help understand the risk, and make early lifestyle modifications," Dr. Malhotra noted.

Dr. Kiran Goswami, also a Professor at the Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS, pointed out that hypertension is a major modifiable risk factor

responsible for many premature deaths, particularly among younger populations. She explained that controlling blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular deaths and strokes. "If you can control your systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10 millimetres of mercury, you can bring down about 20 percent early risk of death by cardiovascular deaths. Stroke risks can be reduced by one-third," she said.

The experts identified several risk factors contributing to high blood pressure in young people, including genetic predispositions, early tobacco use, excess weight, physical inactivity, and sedentary lifestyles. Stress was also highlighted as a significant risk factor.

"Educational institutions must teach the younger population on how to deal with stress. Pressures begin from a young age. How to cope with stress is an important life skill that must be taught to our young kids, and this will pay a long-term dividend in combating many situations, including early onset of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)," he said.

To combat the rise in hypertension, the experts recommended adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes consuming more fruits and vegetables and engaging in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily, such as brisk walking or cycling.

In conclusion, the AIIMS experts called for increased awareness and proactive measures to address the growing problem of hypertension among young people. By promoting healthy habits and early intervention, it is possible to reduce the long-term health risks associated with high blood pressure and improve overall public health.
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