Akin to sponges, kids tend to soak up all that’s brewing around them, be it triumph or turmoil. In fact, some five percent of children in the U.S. already live with high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sliding LifeSkills training into high school curriculum could be one way to keep teens’ blood pressure in check while also tempering rising anger and anxiety levels, finds a new study in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine.
When 86 freshmen in Augusta, Georgia took 50-minute stress-management classes for 10 weeks, researchers found they were better able to control anger, reduce anxiety, and maintain lower blood-pressure levels compared to 73 peers who did not take the classes.
Diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure decreased an average two points in the 30 percent of participants who started the study with high blood pressure, said researcher Vernon Barnes, PhD, a Georgia Health Sciences University physiologist, in a statement. What’s more, the benefit endured for six months.
The program emphasized 10 so-called life skills developed by study co-authors Redford Williams, MD, and Virginia Williams, PhD, who founded Williams LifeSkills, Inc. It introduced coping skills and taught smart decision-making, as well as how to be assertive without being aggressive and how to counteract negative thoughts. Positive interactions were also encouraged as students worked through real-life stressful situations together in class.
The study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is thought to be the first to analyze the impact of teaching stress-management on blood pressure in schoolchildren. Even a tiny blood-pressure dip during adolescence can substantially reduce risk of high blood pressure and, by extension, heart disease.