The idea of a child having a kidney stone or hypertension seems unbelievable for most people. We think of kidney stones and high blood pressure as health issues we don’t need to worry about until middle age.
Kidney stones and hypertension are affecting more children each year.
All parents are concerned about their kid’s health, but most rarely worry about two important medical issues: high blood pressure and kidney stones. These are both health problems that parents need to know about for the health and safety of their child.
Many see high blood pressure (hypertension) as something that only affects adults or people who are older. Unfortunately, high blood pressure in children and adolescents is now a growing problem. Currently, about 3 to 4 percent of children have hypertension. While this might seem like a small percentage, there are 74 million children under the age of 18 in the U.S., which means that an estimated 2 million children in America have high blood pressure.
The connection between high blood pressure and weight gain in children:
The rise in hypertension in children and young adults may be linked to dietary issues including high salt intake and excess weight gain and obesity. As more and more children become overweight or obese, we’ve seen an increase in the number of kids with high blood pressure. For adults, eating a healthy diet and exercising are important parts of lowering one’s blood pressure and reducing the chances of future health complications. In children, a poor diet (especially eating too much sodium) and lack of physical activity could also contribute to high blood pressure.
Along with high blood pressure, kidney stones are also becoming more common in children. The frequency of kidney stones in young children and adolescents has been increasing over the past few decades. While the exact reason for this uptick is unknown, dietary factors such as poor fluid intake, excessive salt intake, and obesity seem to play a role. It’s important to recognize the signs of kidney stones in children. In teenagers, the symptoms of kidney stones are similar to those in adults, such as a sharp pain in the lower back or side, often coming and going in waves, blood in the urine, and painful urination. In younger children, the pain can be more vague. Some kids with kidney stones might seem irritable for no apparent reason or have a decrease in urine output.
A parent’s own health affects their kids’:
Genetic factors can play in a role in both high blood pressure and kidney stones. When it comes to children, a parent’s lifestyle choices might often play a part. If a parent has high blood pressure or is overweight or obese, it’s possible that this increases the chance that their child will also struggle with these health issues.
Steps to prevention, what parents can do:
The good news is that there are steps families can take to reduce the risk of hypertension and kidney stones. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, drinking enough water each day is the most important lifestyle habit to help prevent kidney stones. Be aware of what fluid goals should be for children.
- 1-5 years old: > 30 ounces/day
- 6-10 years old: > 50 ounces/day
- Over 10 years old > 65 ounces/day
To prevent high blood pressure in children, it’s important to make sure they’re eating a healthy diet, watch their sodium intake, encourage physical activity and help them maintain a healthy weight. Even if your child is healthy, regular screenings and checkups can also help detect or minimize risk of kidney stones and high blood pressure. Reading food labels is important. Most food labels are based on that product’s nutritional value relative to a 2000 calorie per day diet.
- The calorie needs of a particular child could vary by age and other factors such as underlying medical conditions.
- Look at the serving size as the product could contain more than 1 serving
- Low sodium foods have less than 5% of the daily value of sodium
- High sodium foods have over 20% of the daily value of sodium
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that under age 18 years should not have more than one sugar sweetened beverage per week.
Dr. Melissa Cadnapaphornchai is a physician at Rocky Mountain Pediatric Kidney Center who specializes in pediatric nephrology, and she has treated kidney stones in patients as young as two months old. For more information, call 303-301-9010 or visit www.rockymountainkidskidneys.com.