High Blood Pressure, Overweight and Obesity Among Rural Scholars from the Vela Project: A Population-Based Study from South America

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Many studies have shown that high blood pressure and overweight begins in childhood. Consequently, it is useful to know blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) values from an early age. There are few data about blood pressure control in children and adolescents from rural populations in South America.


The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of high blood pressure and its association with sedentary habits and overweight/obesity in scholars from a rural population in Argentina.


The study population for this cross-sectional study was composed of rural children and adolescent scholars from Maria Ignacia Vela. Pre-hypertension and hypertension were defined on the basis of percentiles from the average of three blood pressure measurements taken on a single occasion. In patients with three blood pressure measurements above the 90th percentile, ambulatory blood pressure monitoring was performed to confirm hypertension or pre-hypertension. BMI was categorized by using the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts.


We studied 334 scholars (aged 5–18 years). Mean age was 11.4 years. In 70% of the subjects, blood pressure had never been measured. The prevalence of high blood pressure was 4.4%. Students with sedentary habits were 3.67-fold more likely to develop high blood pressure than their physically active counterparts (odds ratio [OR] 3.67; 95% CI 1.08, 12.46; p = 0.037). Obese students were more likely to develop hypertension than the students with normal weight (OR = 5.17; 95% CI 1.52, 17.60; p = 0.02). Male students had a 3.4-fold higher risk of developing high blood pressure than females.


In our rural population, the evaluation of blood pressure in children and adolescents is not a routine measure. Our data indicate a low prevalence of high blood pressure. These data could argue differences between rural and urban scholars. Our data demonstrate a close relationship between increased overweight, obesity and sedentary lifestyle with the development of high blood pressure. We emphasize the importance of blood pressure controls and the need to implement programmes to modify sedentary lifestyle in rural populations.


Received for publication 2 February 2012; accepted for publication 8 March 2012.

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