Violence Exposure and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in African-American Adolescents

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Children continually exposed to violence develop anxiety and depression and display aggressive behavior; however, little information is available about how repeated exposure to violence affects blood pressure (BP) and development of hypertension. This study examines the association between violence exposure and ambulatory BP in 40 healthy African-American adolescents. Participants wore a 24-hr ambulatory BP monitor and completed a survey on exposure to community violence. We computed average daytime and nighttime BP values based on subjects' self-reports of awake and asleep times. There were significant correlations between nighttime BP and reports of violence victimization and witnessing of violent events. In contrast, daytime BP significantly correlated with victimization but not with witnessing violence. Children classified as nondippers (show <10% decrease in BP from awake to asleep) reported witnessing a significantly greater number of violent events than did dippers (show ≥10% decrease in BP from awake to asleep). This study is the first to demonstrate that violence exposure in African-American adolescents relates to elevated BP responses, which may increase the risk for African-American adolescents for developing hypertension and related cardiovascular complications in early adulthood.

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