Background: Hypertension in children and adolescents has become increasingly common. We sought to study the prevalence of hypertension among apparently healthy school children in Udupi Taluk, a rapidly developing coastal region in Karnataka in South India and correlate high blood pressures with age, gender and BMI. Method: A total of 2067 students (1055 boys and 1012 girls) between the ages of 5 - 16 years from rural schools in Udupi taluk were studied as part of school health services. Height (in cm) and weight (in kg) were recorded along with Blood Pressure measurements using the auscultatory method. Blood pressure was measured twice among children who were found to have a high reading (more than the 95th percentile) the first time. Using WHO charts for BMI for boys and girls, prevalence of overweight and obese children was determined. The evaluation of hypertension was based on the Update on the 1987 Task Force Report on High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents. Results: Overall prevalence of hypertension in children was 2.2%. Prevalence of hypertension in female children was 2.4% and in males it was 2.1%. The proportion of hypertensives was found to the maximum in the 14-16 year age group. The prevalence of obesity among girls and boys was found to be 1.5% and 1.1% respectively. The prevalence of systolic hypertension was found to be significantly higher (P=0.041) in obese children (12.5%) as compared to that in underweight children (1.4%). Conclusion: We found that higher BMI was associated with higher blood pressures. The results suggest that the prevalence of hypertension is mainly in the adolescent age group; therefore targeted screening in this group would be beneficial.
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