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New Program Helps Teens Manage Anger and Lower Blood-Pressure

Update Date: Sep 11, 2012 10:13 AM EDT

Adolescents suffering from anger issues and slightly higher blood pressure than normal can be offered a 10-week-long Lifeskills program designed to fit into the high school curriculum which could help them manage anger and stress for the rest of their lives.

 According to a study published in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, Health and physical education teachers taught anger and stress management to 86 ninth graders in Augusta, Ga., and found their ability to control anger increased, their anxiety decreased and their blood pressures were generally lower over the course of just one day compared to 73 of their peers who received no intervention.

"We believe we have an effective method that any school could use to help curtail violence and keep adolescents out of trouble with an improved mental state that benefits their physical well-being,"  Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, physiologist at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Health Sciences University. "Further study is needed to measure the program's impact in hypertensive schoolchildren," he noted.

Previous studies have shown that even a slight decrease in blood pressure during adolescence, could significantly reduce their risk of hypertension and contracting cardiovascular disease during their adult years.

Escalating anger and violence among such youths have been associated with increased levels of stress and anxiety, which in turn increases blood pressure in adolescents,  said Barnes. Additionally, self-reported feelings of anger have been shown to predict aggression in youth.

The program, which purposefully targeted low-income communities and failing schools, shows that children who have difficult home lives or simply have poor stress management skills can be taught life skills that could regulate their stress, anger and blood pressure which would have cognitive and physical health benefits. The program also outlines the end goals of improving students' decision making and coping skills.

The report stipulates,

"The lessons help adolescents learn to be assertive without being aggressive, make sound decisions about whether to act on negative thoughts and increase their positive interactions. Some stressful situations students worked through in class were real-life situations they shared with classmates. Their blood pressure was measured around the clock and they received pre- and post-testing to assess anger and anxiety levels."

Currently sequestered to two high schools in Augusta, Researchers hope to extend this protocol-driven program to schools all across the country, an alaternative elective to health class that could teach children about how to monitor stress, blood preassure and could be remodled to incorporate, sexual tensions and bullying other popular stressors. 

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