Resting pulse rates and BMIs on the rise in children

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533310_88989441Obesity rates among children in the United States and the UK have tripled in the last three decades. Along with this increase, physical activity levels have decreased. And now this decrease can be seen in numbers according to a new study, the resting pulse rates among teens have increased over the last thirty years. Resting pulse rate is often used as a marker of physical fitness generally, the slower the pulse, the more fit the person. Of course, there are serious medical conditions that cause the pulse (which reflects the heartbeat) to be too slow, including coronary artery disease, electrical conduction disturbances, certain medications (especially digitalis), and aging of the conduction system leading to heart block.

Researchers from the Institute of Child Health in London looked at the records of 23,000 children ages 9 to 11 who were enrolled in studies in Britain between the years 1980 and 2008 that included measuring resting pulse rates. They found average BMI increased from 16.9 to 18.8 in boys and 17.1 to 19.2 in girls. They also found that the percentage of those children who were overweight or obese increased from 5.7 to 21.9 in boys and 9.7 to 30.4 in girls. And resting pulse rates increased by about 0.04 beats per minute each year over the thirty-year period. Although this may look like a small increase, the fact that it was constant over the thirty year period makes it significant.

According to researchers, If an increase of 2 beats per minute in mean resting pulse rate in boys persists to the adult population, this could result in a 4% increase in coronary heart disease mortality among healthy men and a 2% increase in risk of developing diabetes among those over 65 years. They also add that resting pulse rate has been linked to hypertension, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk, as well as blood pressure and adiposity in children.

ACSH s Ariel Savransky had this to say. Even though an increase of 1.2 beats per minute still may not sound concerning, this is something that could be easily prevented. Clearly this is a wake-up call that we really need to be paying more attention to getting young people active. Physical activity programs in schools should be further emphasized, as a good physical activity curriculum can actually have a profound impact on the lives of these children, for more than just lowering resting pulse rates.