Background. The prevalence of risk factors for diabetes and hypertension in Saudi school children has achieved epidemic proportions because of enriched lifestyles. The aim of this study is to conduct a baseline study of such risk factors in a young population at the cusp of high-end technology and material comfort.
Materials and Methods. A cross-sectional study was done among school children using parental assisted self-questionnaires and anthropometric assessment of their vital statistics. This study, including planning, data collection and analysis, and the writing of the first draft, was conducted from March 2015 to October 2016 after ethical approval was obtained. Cluster sampling was done for the schools, and stratified randomized sampling was performed to choose a total of 794 male and female school children. SPSS software was used for data analysis.
Results. It was found that 11.6% of the children had a body mass index (BMI) above the normal range. The waist-to-height ratio was elevated in 16.8% of the children. Other risk factors of note were a high prevalence of sedentary habits (43%), daily consumption of carbonated sugary drinks (36.4%), and eating at fast food restaurants most days of the week (17%).
Conclusions. This gradual buildup of risk factors for diabetes and hypertension at an early age is a morbid indicator of an epidemic whose outcome has been determined. Most of these modifiable risk factors are amenable to change through concentrated efforts to educate, train and inculcate healthy habits among children and their families.
School children; risk factors; diabetes; hypertension; waist-hip ratio; Saudi Arabia