WEDNESDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 20 percent of fifth graders in West Virginia may have elevated blood pressure, according to new research from an ongoing study identifying heart disease risk factors.
"The real thrust of this research is trying to get some attention on the fact that we need to screen for hypertension [high blood pressure] in children. And, while one reading done at school isn't diagnostic, the school nurse can record that information and send it home for the parents to follow-up with their child's physician," said study author Valerie E. Minor, associate director of surveillance of the CARDIAC (Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities) project and an associate professor of nursing at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, W.Va.
Minor is scheduled to present the findings Wednesday at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research 2010 Scientific Sessions in Washington, D.C.
The CARDIAC project was started because West Virginia has a significantly higher age-adjusted rate of death from heart disease than the national average -- 21 percent higher, according to Minor's presentation.
Risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have their roots in childhood, but there are no universal population-based screenings for blood pressure levels in children.
For the CARDIAC study, West Virginia schools conducted blood pressure screenings on more than 62,000 fifth graders. In that group, 12,245 had blood pressure readings above the 95th percentile for their height and gender.
Youngsters carrying extra weight fared the worst. The rate of blood pressure readings above the 95th percentile in normal weight children was 12 percent, said Minor. But, for overweight children, the rate was 19 percent. In obese children, it was almost 33 percent, said Minor.
"These numbers a
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