Wed | May 23, 2018

Hypertension in children on the rise - More than 30,000 kids diagnosed with high blood pressure because of severe overweight

Published:Wednesday | January 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Professor Alafia Samuels

Experts are expressing alarm after discovering that in 2017, close to 33,000 children ages 10-19 years, were diagnosed with elevated blood pressure due to obesity.

Professor Alafia Samuels, director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill, Barbados, noted that statistics showed the urgent need for action to be taken, especially at the policy level, to help persons to make healthier choices.

"We know that hypertension is not the usual trend in children. It is expected that it could emerge as you get older, but the reality is that 20 per cent of obese children have high blood pressure.

"When we calculated the figures for Jamaica, what we found was that in 2017, almost 18,000 girls and more than 15,000 boys, 10-19 years old, had elevated blood pressure because of obesity," she said at the Global Health Advocacy Campaign Obesity Prevention Programme, which was held yesterday at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

"We do not want our teenagers to be starting life that way."

The professor added, "We do not eat the way our grandmothers used to eat. In the Caribbean, we have been importing more and more food and some of the main things that we are importing are the things that are leading to some of the challenges. The processing of the food is also important, and there is a relationship between obesity and these ultra-processed foods."

Professor Fitzroy Henry revealed that the average Jamaican eats more than three pounds of sugar each week.

"You know what that means? It means more than 100 pounds of sugar every year per person. This is what we do to our bodies, and the sugar content is from local foods and imports," said the professor of public health nutrition at UWI.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com