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Circulation. 2005 Mar 15;111(10):1291-7.

Children in South Asia have higher body mass-adjusted blood pressure levels than white children in the United States: a comparative study.

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  • 1Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, PO Box 3500, Stadium Road, Karachi, Pakistan.



Blood pressure during childhood is an established predictor of adult blood pressure, which in turn increases mortality as a result of cardiovascular disease. Adult South Asian populations are particularly predisposed to cardiovascular disease compared with whites, but the prevalence of high blood pressure and determinants of blood pressure in South Asian children have not been explored or compared with those of white children.


Analyses were performed on 5641 South Asian children 5 to 14 years old included in the nationally representative National Health Survey of Pakistan (NHSP) (1990-1994) and on 4756 white children 5 to 14 years old included in Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) (1988-1994). Anthropometric measurements were obtained. Blood pressure was measured twice in the seated position with a mercury sphygmomanometer and an appropriate-size cuff. High blood pressure was defined as a systolic or diastolic blood pressure level that was > or =95th percentile of age-, sex-, and height-percentile-specific reference level for the US population. Mean body mass index (BMI)-adjusted blood pressure values were compared among children in 2 data sets by use of linear regression analysis. The overall prevalence (95% CI) of high blood pressure in South Asian children 5 to 14 years old was 12.2% (11.3% to 13.1%): 15.8% (14.5% to 17.1%) in boys and 8.7% (7.6% to 9.8%) in girls. This is in sharp contrast with the predicted 5% prevalence of high blood pressure in children in the United States (P<0.001). The mean BMI-adjusted systolic blood pressure levels (SD) were 100 (11) versus 99 (11) mm Hg (P<0.001), and diastolic blood pressure levels (SD) were 63 (10) versus 52 (12) mm Hg (P<0.001) in NHSP versus NHANES III, respectively.


South Asian children have higher body-mass-adjusted blood pressure levels than white children in the United States. Further studies are needed to determine factors responsible for these differences. Immediate attention is needed to address high blood pressure and its risk factors in native South Asian children.

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