Low birth weight and risk of hypertension in African school children

J Cardiovasc Risk. 1999 Oct;6(5):311-4. doi: 10.1177/204748739900600507.


Background: In accordance with Baker's programming hypothesis, many studies have demonstrated a relationship between low birth weight (LBW) and high risk of hypertension in adulthood. The present study examines a possible association between LBW and the risk of a child having hypertension later in life.

Methods: The study was a cross-sectional, semi-urban survey. Information on the perinatal characteristics of 2648 randomly sampled school children was collected retrospectively in Kinshasa town, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Results: High risk of hypertension in these African school children was related to LBW (<2.500 g); the odds ratio was 2 (95% confidence interval 0.9-8.2, P<0.01) and 2.3 (95% confidence interval 0.6-11.5, P<0.01) for systolic and diastolic hypertension respectively. Birth weight was inversely related with both blood pressure and heart rate; the strongest association was shown in females and adolescents.

Conclusions: Antenatal stress leading to LBW may be associated with programming induced by foetal undernutrition, which in turn leads to the emergence of cardiovascular disease and increased risk of hypertension.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Risk Factors