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Al Tandi, Al Aghbari, Al Marzouqi, Al Zaabi, Al Hadrami, and Shah: Elevated blood pressure in Emirati adolescents – role of obesity?

Introduction: Although obesity is increasing fast, there are few data on the prevalence of high–normal or elevated blood pressure in the United Arab Emirates.

Objectives: To investigate the role of obesity in elevated blood pressure in Emirati adolescents.

Materials and methods: We conducted a school-based survey of a representative sample of youth (n = 1524) aged 12 to 18 years in Al Ain, UAE. Blood pressure (BP) measurements were made with a manual sphygmomanometer by trained nurses. Additional measures, included height, weight and abdominal circumference were taken. Body mass index ≥ 85th and ≥ 95th percentiles were used to define overweight and obesity according to the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts. The prevalence of ‘high normal’ and ‘elevated’ BP was assessed by comparing subjects’ systolic BP and diastolic BP with age-, gender- and height-specific 90th and 95th percentile reference values from the US National High Blood Pressure Education Program. Metabolic syndrome was defined using International Diabetes Federation guidelines.

Results: A high proportion of Emirati adolescents (21%) were obese compared with their non-local counterparts (16%). Six per cent of adolescents had elevated blood pressure. A high proportion (19.1%) of obese children had elevated blood pressure compared with those who were overweight (4.8%) and normal (2.1%). Prevalence of metabolic syndrome was high (42%) among the obese compared with their counterparts who were overweight (14%) and normal weight (5%).

Conclusions: The present findings emphasize the importance of prevention of obesity in order to prevent future cardiovascular related problems, such as hypertension.

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