Background: Increasing trend of hypertension is a worldwide phenomenon. The data on sustained hypertension in school going children is scanty in India. The present study was conducted to evaluate the prevalence of sustained hypertension and obesity in apparently healthy school children in rural and urban areas of Ludhiana using standard criteria.
Methods and results: A total of 2467 apparently healthy adolescent school children aged between 11-17 years from urban area and 859 students from rural area were taken as subjects. Out of total 3326 students, 189 were found to have sustained hypertension; in urban areas prevalence of sustained hypertension was 6.69% (n=165) and in rural area it was 2.56% (n=24). Males outnumbered females in both rural and urban areas. The mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure of hypertensive population in both urban and rural population was significantly higher than systolic and diastolic blood pressure in their normotensive counterparts (urban normotensive systolic blood pressure:115.48+/-22.74 mmHg, urban hypertensive systolic blood pressure: 137.59+/-11.91 mmHg, rural normotensive systolic blood pressure: 106.31+/-19.86 mmHg, rural hypertensive systolic blood pressure: 131.63+/-10.13 mmHg, urban normotensive diastolic blood pressure: 74.18+/-17.41 mmHg, urban hypertensive diastolic blood pressure: 84.58+/-8.14 mmHg, rural normotensive diastolic blood pressure: 68.84+/-16.96 mmHg, rural hypertensive diastolic blood pressure: 79.15+/-7.41 mmHg). Overweight populationwas significantly higher in urban area. There were 287 (11.63%) overweight students and 58 (2.35%) were obese. In rural population overweight and obese students were 44 (4.7%) and 34 (3.63%) respectively. There was significant increase in prevalence of hypertension in both rural and urban population with increased body mass index in urban students; those with normal body mass index had prevalence of hypertension of 4.52% (n=96), in overweight it was 15.33% (n=44) and in obese it was 43.10% (n=25). In rural area, the overweight students showed prevalence of sustained hypertension in 6.82% (n=3) and in obese group it was 61.76% (n=21). None of the student with normal body mass index in rural area was found to be hypertensive. The mean body mass index of hypertensive population in both rural and urban areas was significantly higher than respective normotensive population (mean body mass index in urban normotensive group: 20.34+/-3.72 kg/m2, hypertensive group: 24.91+/-4.92 kg/m2; mean body mass index in rural normotensive group: 18.41+/-3.41 kg/m2, hypertensive group: 21.37+/-3.71 kg/m2, p<0.01).
Conclusions: Prevalence of sustained hypertension is on the rise in urban area even in younger age groups. Blood pressure is frequently elevated in obese children as compared to lean subjects. This is possibly related to their sedentary lifestyle, altered eating habits, increased fat content of diet and decreased physical activities.