Coronary Risk Factors and Health Behaviors in a Diverse Ethnic and Cultural Population of Adolescents: A Gender Comparison

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Abstract

Background

Little information is available for multi-ethnic multi-cultural girls and boys on cardiovascular risk factors, health behavior, self-perception of health and health attitudes.

Methods

The sample consisted of adolescent girls (n = 178) and boys (n = 71) from three urban, New York City schools and was comprised of 26% Asian-Amerians, 39% blacks, 10% Hispanics, 22% whites, and 3% other. Measurements included resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, % body fat, body mass index, total serum cholesterol, family history of cardiovascular disease, cigarette smoking, physical activity, dietary habits, self perception of health, stress, and health attitudes.

Results

Boys had significantly (P < 0.05) higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to girls, 117 vs. 112, 75 vs. 72, respectively. Girls had significantly higher cholesterol, 159 vs. 153 and % body fat, 28 vs. 16%. Boys were more physically active and had better self-perception of health. Girls ate fewer foods associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Thirty-seven percent of the total sample had one or more risk factors and 20% had two or more. Risk factors were more prevalent in girls (44% had one or more) compared to boys (20% had one or more). Fewer boys were hypercholesterolemic, 5% vs. 10%, and obese, 10% vs. 37%, than girls, although more boys were hypertensive, 13% vs. 6%. Twice as many girls were inactive, 25% vs. 13% compared to boys.

Conclusions

Results suggest that coronary risk factors and poor health behaviors are prevalent in multi-ethnic adolescents and occur more frequently in girls than boys.

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