Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 88 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 28-Mar-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 29-Mar-2004
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Blood pressure ‘time bomb’ warning for UK’s ethnic minority children

Children of some ethnic minority groups in Britain are losing the protection —low blood pressure —against heart attack and stroke seen in their in adulthood counterparts. And experts believe the rise in blood pressure may be caused by the children’s exposure to environmental factors such as lack of physical exercise, poor diet, obesity and stress. The findings by academics from the University of Edinburgh and the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, are published today (23 March) in the Journal of Human Hypertension.

High blood pressure (BP) is one of the most important causes of coronary heart disease and stroke, the dominant causes of death in the UK. The Edinburgh and Dutch researchers reviewed scientific publications to find out if variations in BP of South Asian, African and Chinese descent children reflected those of their equivalent adult populations in Britain. For example, BP levels in adults of African populations tend to be higher than the average UK level, whereas BP levels amongst those of Indian and Chinese origins are the same. People of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins tend to have lower BP. Researchers expected to find that the BP levels in these children would fall somewhere between their ethnic group ‘norm’ as seen in adults and the UK average. Instead, the BP levels were more or less the same in every ethnic group.

Professor Raj Bhopal of the University of Edinburgh said: “Ethnic variations in BP levels are being lost as children of South Asian, African and Chinese descent adopt the same diet and lifestyle as white European origin youngsters. This worrying trend will have special significance for people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origins, who have generally lower levels of BP than the population as a whole, but despite this, have high levels of stroke and heart attacks. If the BP levels of young people from these ethnic groups rise towards the average, their risk of stroke and heart attack will also increase. We already know that lack of exercise, obesity and insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) are important problems in these children. This new finding adds to the health challenge.”

There is, generally, higher BP in children whose mothers were malnourished in early pregnancy. Dr Charles Agyemang of the Erasmus Medical Centre explained: “Foetal and early life growth patterns may be shaping these ethnic variations in BP in ways that we do not understand. It is clear, however, that the younger generation of ethnic minority groups have different BP patterns than the previous generation.”

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