New program teaches teens how to deal with high blood pressure

With obesity on the rise in the U.S., conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are not only haunting adults, but kids too.

Nearly 5 percent of children and adolescents have high blood pressure.

Kelly Padilla, 17, has been struggling with her weight and blood pressure for a few years now. The Bronx teen recently enrolled in the “Pediatric Hypertension and Healthy Heart Program” at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

“I cut out chips that I really like . . .and other salty things,” Kelly said. “Without them, I feel more energized, and I’m not as slow and sluggish as I was before.”

The program is trying to educate young people about nutrition and exercise and prepare them for a healthy adulthood.

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“We work as a team with nephrologists, cardiologists, generalists, doctors who are metabolic experts and nutritionist, and social workers and even an exercise physiologist,” said Dr. Frederik Kaskel, director of the division of pediatric nephrology at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.

“The goal is to get diagnosed early, those children and adolescence at risk for high blood pressure. And try and work out a plan to treat the blood pressure without medication.”

Each specialist on the team examines the high-risk patient, and then he or she wears a device for 24 hours that measures the blood pressure.

Normal numbers depend on three factors: gender, age and height.

If a child falls above the 95th percentile, then that is considered high blood pressure and can lead to heart disease.

“We are all concerned about left ventricular hypertrophy, where the heart muscles enlarge,” Kaskel said. “This is a major risk factor for cardiac dysfunction.”

Pediatric patients aren’t the only ones benefitting from this program. Much of what Kelly is learning is rubbing off on her family.

“In my house, we’re eating more fruits and vegetables,” Kelly said. “For snacks we occasionally have apples, or pears and bananas. For dinner, the plate is more proportioned to have a lot of vegetables on it, rather than the meats.”

And instead of texting her friends and watching TV, Kelly is more apt to go walking with her mother.

Kaskel said Kelly is making great improvements.

For more information on this program, check out