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Overweight, physical activity and high blood pressure in children: a review of the literature

Authors Brian Torrance, K Ashlee McGuire, Richard Lewanczuk, Jonathan McGavock

Published 15 March 2007 Volume 2007:3(1) Pages 139—149

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Brian Torrance1, K Ashlee McGuire2 ,Richard Lewanczuk1, Jonathan McGavock2

1Division of Endocrinology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta, Canada; 2Manitoba Institute of Child Health, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Canada

Abstract: Obesity is a growing problem in developed countries and is likely a major cause of the increased prevalence of high blood pressure in children. The aim of this review is to provide clinicians and clinical scientists with an overview of the current state of the literature describing the negative influence of obesity on blood pressure and it’s determinants in children. In short, we discuss the array of vascular abnormalities seen in overweight children and adolescents, including endothelial dysfunction, arterial stiffening and insulin resistance. We also discuss the potential role of an increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system in the development of high blood pressure and vascular dysfunction associated with obesity. As there is little consensus regarding the methods to prevent or treat high blood pressure in children, we also provide a summary of the evidence supporting relationship between physical activity and blood pressure in children and adolescents. After reviewing a number of physical activity intervention studies performed in children, it appears as though 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic-based physical activity 3–5 days/week is required to improve vascular function and reduce blood pressure in obese children. Future studies should focus on describing the influence of physical activity on blood pressure control in overweight children.

Keywords: arterial compliance, insulin sensitivity, aerobic exercise, sympathetic nervous system

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