Up to 8% of Canadian children suffer from elevated blood pressure
TORONTO, Nov. 24
New intervention deals with the root causes of this health threat
TORONTO, Nov. 24 /CNW/ - "We blame kids for being fat, we blame kids for
being inactive, we blame kids not eating right or the families for not
feeding their kids right," says Terrence Wade, the Canada Research
Chair in youth and wellness at Brock University. "But a lot of these
things are not based on individual choices because your life choices
and such are constrained by your life chances."
Wade is completing a five-year study funded by the Heart and Stroke
Foundation of Ontario to determine what social situations can lead to
hypertension in children and develop strategies for children to deal
with those situations in their daily lives. His work will be part of
the program at the first-ever Canada Research Chairs conference in
Toronto this week.
Children in disadvantaged socio-economic situations are more likely to
deal with the kinds of daily stresses that can lead to hypertension at
an early age.
While other studies have focused on the direct physical causes of
hypertension in children, such as obesity and physical inactivity, Wade
says his study is the first to his knowledge in Canada to look at
Unlike adult hypertension, the condition in children is not defined by
specific blood pressure levels but is instead calculated as those
children who find themselves in the 95th percentile for high blood pressure.
For the first three-years of the study, Wade and his team set out to
determine the prevalence of hypertension in children.
They found that 1.5 per cent to about four per cent of children have
what could be classified as serious hypertension.
But 6.5 per cent to eight per cent of children have elevated blood
pressure that could be a cause for concern.
Hypertension in children can lead to physical damage to the heart and
cardiovascular system. It also increases the prevalence of heart
disease as an adult and brings about a great risk of getting heart
disease at a younger age.
With his study now in its fourth year, Wade and his team of experts,
ranging from sociologists to cardiologists, have developed an
intervention to help children and youth deal with stress and lead
The intervention consists of a four-step program. The first step is to
focus on children's strengths and help make them aware of those
strengths. The second step is to teach them to focus on positive
emotions while the third step is to think about how children are
spending their free time. The final step is to help them develop better
strategies, both emotional and instrumental, to deal with stress in
their daily lives.
The research team has set up the program in five schools in the St.
Catharines (Ontario) area. They started with one-week youth leadership
camp where they taught children in grades six to eight how to deal with
stress. These participants then become youth leaders who bring the
knowledge back to their peers at school.
Wade says the inter-disciplinary nature of the study has helped his team
get a better picture of the problems children can face and the
solutions they can implement to remedy those situations.
"Life is complex, we can't stay in our own disciplines walled-off from
everybody else," he says.
"We need to be able to talk to people across disciplines to get a better
perspective, and a fuller perspective."
Terrence Wade is available for interviews live from the Canada Research
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