Excess body fat and high blood pressure (BP) are important risk factors for increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and both may have their roots of occurrence in childhood and adolescence. The present study aimed at determining the association between body fat composition and BP level among adolescents in Tanzania.
A cross-sectional study involving 5 randomly selected secondary schools within Dar es Salaam was conducted between June and November 2013. Structured questionnaires were used to collect information on demographic characteristics and other cardiovascular risk factors. BP, height, weight and waist circumference were measured following standard methods. Body fat was assessed by skinfold thickness and categorized as underfat, healthy, overfat or obese according to World Health Organization definitions. Hypertension was defined as BP ≥ 90(th) percentile for age, height and gender of the adolescent.
The study included 582 adolescents (mean age 16.5 ± 1.8 years, 52.1% boys). The proportion of adolescents with overfat or obesity was 22.2%. Systolic, diastolic and combined hypertension was present in 17.5%, 5.5%, and 4.0% respectively. In the total population mean body fat percent correlated positively with diastolic BP and mean arterial pressure (MAP) but not with systolic BP. In multivariate analysis body mass index (β=0.21, p=0.008) and waist circumference (β=0.12, p=0.049), but not body fat percentage (β=-0.09, p=0.399) independently predicted higher MAP.
Body mass index predicts BP level better than body fat composition and should be used as a measure of increased risk for hypertension among adolescents.
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