High-pressure juveniles

Published: Tuesday 15 March 1994

-- Children suffer from high blood pressure (BP) almost as much as adults, according to two studies conducted among 3,200 children aged 5-16. Among the factors attributed for the high juvenile BP levels were obesity and a family history of hypertension.

One study, conducted in Ahmedabad by A B Desai and his colleagues at the Jivraj Mehta Smarak Health Foundation Medical Centre, found that 33 children among 700 (4.7 per cent) had higher than normal BP. The percentage is almost on par with the prevalent rate for Indian adults. M Verma and colleagues at the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana found 2.8 per cent of the 2,560 children examined had high BP levels.

However, when the tests were six and nine months later, the figure dropped to 1.3 and 1.1 per cent, respectively. According to Harbans Singh Wasir of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, the downward trend could be explained by the "white-coat effect". The BP of the children could have gone up when they were examined by a stranger (in this case, a doctor or nurse) and become lower as the children became more familiar with the routine in subsequent screenings.

Nonetheless, K K Aggarwal, president of the New Delhi branch of the Indian Medical Association, says BP tests should be conducted in schools so that precautions can be taken to help control hypertension later. For children susceptible to hypertension, Aggarwal prescribes a low-fat, low-calorie diet and regular aerobic exercises.

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