Threat of non-communicable diseases growing among children, adolescents

September 15, 2019 11:56 pm | Updated 11:56 pm IST - Bengaluru

While it is common for adults to develop hypertension and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a recent study titled Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) has found a growing threat of NCDs in school-going children aged between five to nine and in adolescents aged between 10 and 19.

Commissioned by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the survey — the first of its kind — was carried out between February 2016 and October 2018. As many as 1.12 lakh children and adolescents (0-19 years) were covered for height and weight measurements, and biological samples from 51,029 children (1-19 years) were taken from all the States.

Overall, 5% of the adolescents were found to have hypertension (high blood pressure). In Karnataka, 3.1% of the children and adolescents were found to have high blood pressure and 7% were observed to be overweight.

The survey found obesity to be on the rise among those in the 10-19 age group. These indicators were found to be high in Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Goa.

While 10% of the children and adolescents were found to be pre-diabetic (measured by fasting serum glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin–HbA1C) in the country, 7% of the children and adolescents had the risk of chronic kidney disease (measured by high serum creatinine). Chronic kidney disease was found clustered in a few districts of the southern, eastern and northeastern States.

Similarly, 10% of the children and adolescents were found with high triglycerides, 4% of adolescents had high cholesterol and high LDL, and 28% had low HDL.

Food and lifestyle

Corroborating the findings, C.N. Manjunath, director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, attributed the trend to a sedentary lifestyle coupled with consumption of junk food, children spending hours in front of mobile phones, laptops and television, and genetic factors.

“With most children hooked to gadgets, outdoor physical activity has become a rarity. Children can develop high blood pressure at school-going age if there is a family history. If there is no family history, it is important to rule out secondary causes, including nephrotic syndrome, thyroid and other endocrine disorders. Parents should ensure their children shun junk food and bakery items,” he said.

Vishwanath Siddini, head of nephrology and consultant paediatric nephrologist at Manipal Hospitals, said childhood obesity is also a forerunner of poor physical health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension and glucose intolerance (Type II Diabetes).

“This is a matter of serious concern as NCDs typically occur later on in life. Birth defects, congenital abnormalities, and hereditary diseases such as polycystic kidney disease are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease in children. But if hypertension in children goes undetected, they can develop chronic kidney disease. Apart from a lifestyle modification that includes outdoor physical activities with limited screen time, a wholesome and balanced diet comprising minimally processed food is a must,” Dr. Siddini said.

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