OBJECTIVE:

To examine the prevalence of prehypertension and hypertension among children receiving well-child care in community-based practices.

METHODS:

Children aged 3 to 17 years with measurements of height, weight, and blood pressure (BP) obtained at an initial (index) well-child visit between July 2007 and December 2009 were included in this retrospective cohort study across 3 large, integrated health care delivery systems. Index BP classification was based on the Fourth Report on the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents: normal BP, <90th percentile; prehypertension, 90th to 94th percentile; hypertension, 3 BP measurements ≥95th percentile (index and 2 subsequent consecutive visits).

RESULTS:

The cohort included 199 513 children (24.3% aged 3–5 years, 34.5% aged 6–11 years, and 41.2% aged 12–17 years) with substantial racial/ethnic diversity (35.9% white, 7.8% black, 17.6% Hispanic, 11.7% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 27.0% other/unknown race). At the index visit, 81.9% of participants were normotensive, 12.7% had prehypertension, and 5.4% had a BP in the hypertension range (≥95th percentile). Of the 10 848 children with an index hypertensive BP level, 3.8% of those with a follow-up BP measurement had confirmed hypertension (estimated 0.3% prevalence). Increasing age and BMI were significantly associated with prehypertension and confirmed hypertension (P < .001 for trend). Among racial/ethnic groups, blacks and Asians had the highest prevalence of hypertension.

CONCLUSIONS:

The prevalence of hypertension in this community-based study is lower than previously reported from school-based studies. With the size and diversity of this cohort, these results suggest the prevalence of hypertension in children may actually be lower than previously reported.

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