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.