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 DETROIT, April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan youth appear to have higher blood pressures than other children in the rest of the nation, according to a University of Michigan study funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan.
 Dr. Charles T. Kuntzleman, a U of M faculty member and director of the Blues Fitness for Youth Program (FFY), conducted a study involving more than 10,000 youth, ages 7-19, from 17 Michigan school districts. The results of the 1990-91 study showed significant differences in the blood pressure levels of Caucasian and African-American children, although the sample of African-American children was relatively small.
 Caucasian youth, ages 15-19, had higher systolic blood pressures and African-American youth, ages 7-14, had higher diastolic blood pressures.
 Seymour Adelson, M.D., associate medical director at the Blues, said, "Although these results appear to have statistical significance, the clinical relevance has not yet been determined. "I find the numbers to be extremely high, especially among the African-American children. Our objective at the Blues is to present the data for discussion and further review. We hope the results of these studies may encourage further research on the health of Michigan's children," Adelson said.
 The study found a large percentage of African-American children appeared to have significant diastolic blood pressures, and a large percentage of older Caucasian children, ages 15-16, appeared to have problems with their systolic blood pressure, explained Kuntzleman. "In comparing the two groups, twice as many African-American children had elevated diastolic blood pressures compared to Caucasian children."
 In simple terms, systolic readings measure the pressure of the heart when it is contracting. Diastolic readings measure the heart's pressure when it is relaxing.
 Kuntzleman's study, which used the categories developed by the Task Force on Blood Pressure Control in Children to determine the severity of a child's blood pressure, found that 28 percent of the African-American girls had high normal diastolic blood pressures, 21 percent had high diastolic blood pressures, 15 percent had significant hypertension and 6 percent had severe hypertension. African-American boys' blood pressure levels were slightly lower.
 Twenty-seven percent of the Caucasian boys had high normal systolic blood pressures, 19 percent had high systolic blood pressures, 15 percent had significant hypertension and 5 percent had severe systolic hypertension. The Caucasian girls had about half that rate.
 Kuntzleman said: "The Task Force on Blood Pressure Control in Children reported only 10 percent of the children are expected to have high normal blood pressures, 5 percent high blood pressures, 4 percent significant and 1 percent hypertension."
 Kuntzleman stated that a small number of African-American children were involved in the research because of the geographic locations of the Fitness for Youth schools involved in the study.
 The results of this blood pressure study support two previous Blues/U of M studies which showed Michigan children also appeared to have higher body weights and cholesterol levels than average U.S. children. All of the studies support the recently released Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System by the Michigan Department of Public Health, which reported that Michigan adults were the heaviest in the nation, had the seventh-highest incidence of high blood pressure, and were above the median for blood cholesterol levels.
 "The FFY program was not intended to collect scientific research about children's health, however it has collected a lot of data, which Dr. Kuntzleman has been reporting during the past year," said Adelson. "FFY is an excellent program to teach children about how to take control of their own health and fitness."
 The study may suggest that Michigan adults' heart and health problems begin in childhood. A child with an elevated blood pressure at age 10 will probably have an elevated blood pressure at age 40.
 Dr. Dee Edington, director of the Fitness Research Center, U of M, and a co-author, added, "I find it significant that Michigan has one of the highest incidence of heart disease. These adult health problems may be due to the fact that a large percentage of Michigan children have elevated blood pressures, blood cholesterol and body weight. These are conditions that may be setting children up for health problems in the future," Edington said.
 According to Kuntzleman, "Parents can play a key role in helping children control their blood pressure levels. Working in conjunction with the family physician, they can make sure that overweight children lose weight. This is a powerful way of helping young people reduce their blood pressures. Further, young children should be taught to get involved in exercise programs and eat low-sodium foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and grains. They should also eat fewer high-sodium foods such as luncheon meats, crackers and chips."
 Changes such as these are effective. Earlier FFY studies and other investigations have shown that FFY-type programs, emphasizing aerobic exercise and proper eating, did reduce children's blood pressure levels to the more normal range.
 Michigan is one of eight states that has no mandated time allotted for physical education. It is one of 20 that has no mandated health education. The Michigan Department of Education, however, has provided and recommended the Michigan Model, and the Blues have funded the FFY Program. According to Edington, "It is unconscionable that an industrialized state, such as Michigan, is doing so poorly in the area of health and fitness issues for young people and adults. The problems we are seeing in old age really start in childhood. Michigan legislators must take a serious look at requiring quality health-related physical education and health education programs for schoolchildren."
 The Blues hope to target, through the U of M, the parents of the children who have elevated blood pressures, body fat and blood cholesterol. The FFY staff plans to work in cooperation with the Department of Public Health's Worksite Community Health Promotion project and local departments of public health to provide intervention programs for their children, as well as themselves.
 The Blues' FFY project involves 200 Michigan schools, over 250 physical education teachers and 100,000 children. For further information about the program, contact the U of M Fitness for Youth office at 313-936-3084.
 -0- 4/5/93
 /NOTE: Dr. Kuntzleman's comments on how to prevent or reduce high blood pressure in children are available on radio actuality by calling 313-965-6157.
 CONTACT: Karen Martin, 313-225-8121, or Joe Johnson, 616-285-2053, both of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan/

CO: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan ST: Michigan IN: HEA SU:

SB-SM -- DE034 -- 3224 04/05/93 17:35 EDT
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Date:Apr 5, 1993

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