Youngsters show signs of disease risk factors

| 30/04/2012

86900f7c1c6e47d8b1fd9335da5dd596.jpg(CNS): Caribbean school children are already showing signs of developing diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in later life because of the high likelihood of them being overweight or even obese, according to a series of studies presented at last week’s Caribbean Health Research Council’s conference. More attention needs to be placed on implementing routine screening of children’s weight, blood pressure and BMI, doctors said, to prevent youngsters developing potentially deadly diseases when they get older.  Studies in the region have shown elevated blood pressure among overweight or obese 9 – 10 year olds. A quarter of school age children were either obese or overweight and over 50 per cent of girls surveyed were overweight or obese by the time they left school.

A study carried out to determine the occurrence of chronic non-communicable diseases and their relationship to a child’s weight in Barbados by a team of physicians looked at over 600 children. Doctors found there was a prevalence of elevated bloodpressure among overweight children. 17 per cent of all children showed these signs but 31 per cent of overweight children had high blood pressure. 

Other conditions that occurred more frequently among overweight and obese children included general sinus-type symptoms such as stuffy and runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, allergies, as well as eczema and asthma.

Dr St John who presented the findings at the Marriott Beach Resort said that early detection of chronic non- communicable diseases was extremely important and therefore weighing children regularly was crucial. She went on to say that the younger an individual was measured the better the doctor’s ability to predict whether they may go on to developing such illnesses.

“We have to go back to the beginning,” she said. “Even if that means while the baby is still in utero and assess the weight gain of the mother during pregnancy.”

The doctor went on to say that exercise was extremely important for young people. “We have got to get our young people exercising again,” she said. “If we don’t, we are doomed.”

The study concluded that there was a strong relation between elevated blood pressure and increased body mass.

Dr Lesley Walwyn spoke about the findings of a similar study in Antigua and Barbuda and agreed with Dr St John that there were currently no protocols in place forscreenings of non-communicable diseases among young people. Her study looked at the prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure and also a condition called acanthosis nigricans (AN), a skin condition more prevalent in those who have type II diabetes.

Over 4,000 primary and secondary school children in her country were studied and the prevalence overall of overweight or obese children was 26.5 per cent. The study also found that 14.1 per cent of all children surveyed were either overweight or obese when they first entered primary school at age four, but this figure jumps to 35 per cent when they left secondary school. While boys generally were more overweight than girls when they started school, a huge 50 per cent of girls left school in that condition.

AN was found to be present in 16 per cent of all participants but 44.6 per cent of all overweight/obese children showed signs of this skin condition.

“The prevalence of obesity and its associated risk factors for NCDs is of concern in children,” the doctor said. “This heralds the need to implement screening protocol for this age group.”

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