Babies' rapid weight gain linked to higher blood pressure as adults

Sep 02, 2008

The pace of weight gain in early childhood may be associated with increased blood pressure in adulthood, according to a report in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the first detailed study over the first five years of life to examine whether accelerated infant growth predicts adult systolic and diastolic blood pressure, researchers found that:

-- Babies that are lighter at birth have higher systolic blood pressure as adults.
-- Babies that gain weight more rapidly in the first five months after birth and from about ages 2 to 5 years have higher systolic blood pressure in young adulthood.
-- Immediate weight gain after birth is associated with higher adult diastolic blood pressure.

"Changes in immediate (or the first five months) post-natal weight gain and childhood weight gain were associated with small changes in systolic blood pressure (around 1��.5 millimeters of mercury [mmHg]) that were probably not due to chance," said Yoav Ben-Shlomo, lead author of the study and professor of clinical epidemiology in the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Bristol, U.K. "At an individual level, these changes would not be very important but in public health terms they are relevant."

Systolic blood pressure is the first number in a blood pressure reading and represents the pressure in the arteries while the heart contracts. Diastolic blood pressure represents the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.

Researchers evaluated 679 adults (about age 25) whose growth patterns were tracked as infants as part of the Barry Caerphilly Growth Study. Measurements had been recorded at 14 points between birth and age five.

Ben-Shlomo and colleagues studied whether subjects' growth patterns influenced blood pressure into adulthood.

The researchers found that weight gain occurring between 0 and 5 months and 1 year, 9 months to 5 years made the most difference.

"When trying to understand why some people get high blood pressure in later life, we need to consider a life course approach that considers early life as well as adult life risk factors such as dietary salt and obesity," Ben-Shlomo said.

For example: Two babies are born of average weight, both on the 50th percentile of the birth weight distribution. One of them gains weight but remains within the 50th percentile, while the other gains weight more rapidly and is in the 85th percentile when both are 6 months old.

"Our study suggests that the second baby would have higher systolic blood pressure at age 25 (after adjusting for other factors such as how much they weighed at birth or 5 years, smoking, adult obesity, etc.) than the other baby who stayed where he was on the distribution," Ben-Shlomo said.

The study helps researchers understand what drives the increase in the average blood pressure that, as we age, results in a greater risk of high blood pressure or hypertension, Ben-Shlomo said.

"From a public health perspective, the results are important," he said. "If children put on more post-natal weight today than they did in the past, then we could better predict that the burden of high blood pressure will increase in the future. Hypertension, in turn, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke."

An editorial by Barbara T. Alexander, Ph.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center said the findings provide new insight on sensitive windows for the developmental programming of blood pressure and demonstrates the importance of research into the mechanisms linking early growth and adult blood pressure.

Parents should not be overly concerned if their child puts on a lot of weight in the first few years of life as these findings relate to the average for groups of people and may not apply in an individual case, Ben-Shlomo explained. "It is more important to ensure children eat a healthy diet, without too much processed foods and high salt snacks, and encourage your children to be involved in regular exercise so that they establish sensible habits which they can maintain into their adult lives."

Source: American Heart Association

Explore further: Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

Related Stories

"Living outside the Earth is a huge challenge"

May 08, 2015

Susana Zanello is an expert of human adaptation to life in space. Invited as an academic guest at EPFL, this renowned scientist agreed to share her views on her research, exploration, future trips to Mars ...

How do you feel? Video of your face may tell all

Apr 06, 2015

Rice University researchers are developing a highly accurate, touch-free system that uses a video camera to monitor patients' vital signs just by looking at their faces. The technique isn't new, but engineering ...

Health checks will be seated by Sharp

Dec 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —Sharp unveiled a news-making prototype of a sensor earlier this month at Semicon Japan 2014, which took place from Dec 3 to 5. As its title suggests, Sharp's "Blood Vessel Aging Degree Sensor" ...

Recommended for you

Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

3 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Occupational morbidity and mortality are elevated across food system industries compared with nonfood system industries, according to a study published online May 12 in the Journal of Occupational an ...

Three issues to consider before selecting EHR

4 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Work flow, features and functionality, and technical infrastructure should all be considered in advance of selecting an electronic heath record (EHR) system, according to an article published ...

Research letter: Indoor tanning rates drop among US adults

5 hours ago

Indoor tanning rates dropped among adults from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013, although an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still engage in the practice, which has been linked to increased cancer ...

Stunting remains a challenge in South Africa

6 hours ago

Stunting remains stubbornly persistent in South Africa, despite economic growth, political and social transitions, and national nutritional programmes, says a Wits-led research team.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

skissman
not rated yet Sep 02, 2008
I think it would be relevant to know if the babies were breast fed or formula fed.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.