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High Blood Pressure

Fluctuating BP`s in 18 year old athlete

09/17/2007

Question:

While taking his physical, recently, the practitioner noted an elevated BP of 165/90 in a healthy 18 yr athlete (3 sports year around) He`s never experienced light headedness or shortness of breath, in fact, just the opposite as his coaches often remarked how he got stronger as the game went on. Follow up tests have shown BP`s ranging from 128/69 to 209/95 with what seems to be the most common area of 140/70 to 160/90. (We`ve purchased a home kit to monitor) He has a healthy diet unlike many his age that consists of fruit, meat and vegetables and is 6`3" 180 lbs. Are we, as parents being overly concerned? The team physicians have released him to play and said there`s no cause for concern and they would monitor him as all athletes throughout the season. He is a freshman at college and we`re hoping that it may be the pressure of being away with a full load of pre-med classes while playing a major college sport that is contributing.

Answer:

Your concerns are well founded.  A blood pressure of 165/90 in an 18 year old is too high.  In your son's case, it is important to make sure that the blood pressure measurement was done right.

The patient should rest quietly for 5 minutes, and the appropriate cuff size must be used.  Two to three measurements, taken a few minutes apart should be taken.

The current guidelines recommend at least two office BP measurements a few weeks apart before making the diagnosis of hypertension.  If your son's blood pressure is indeed over 130/80, he will need treatment.

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Response by:

Max C Reif, MD Max C Reif, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director of Hypertension Section
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati