n Medical Technology SA - Childhood obesity : blood pressure levels in learners in the urban communities of Cape Town

Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-5528



This study was undertaken to screen 10-16 year old learners residing in three selected urban areas of Cape Town, South Africa for the presence of elevated blood pressure.

Blood pressure levels were measured using a commercially available semi-automatic blood pressure monitor in 338 randomly selected learners (school children) of both sexes, between the ages of 10-16 years. The blood pressure measurements were performed using standard procedures. Data on physical activity, demographics, lifestyle and family history was collected from participants by use of a structured questionnaire. Overweight and obesity was estimated according to the 'International obesity task force' (IOTF), criteria. Blood pressure levels were categorized using the guidelines of the Fourth Report on the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents.
An overall mean systolic- and diastolic blood pressure levels of 102.94 ± 13.10 mmHg and 62.60 ± 10.16 mmHg (p < 0.05) respectively was obtained in learners. Elevated blood pressure levels were observed in 6.21% of learners, with the highest prevalence rates seen in females. No significant gender differences were observed between the two 'self-identified' learner racial groups (African & Coloured). 17.5% of learners reported a family history of hypertension, 73% of these were African learners. 15.7% of learners were overweight and 6.2% obese. On multiple linear regression of BMI, waist circumference and waist hip ratio, were found to be significantly associated with systolic blood pressure (SBP) whereas diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was only associated with waist circumference.
The high prevalence of elevated blood pressure levels observed in this study and its positive correlation with body mass index, suggests that hypertension may become a significant health condition in many future young South African adults.

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