The role of size at birth and postnatal catch-up growth in determining systolic blood pressure: a systematic review of the literature

J Hypertens. 2000 Jul;18(7):815-31. doi: 10.1097/00004872-200018070-00002.


Objective: To conduct a systematic review in order to (i) summarize the relationship between birthweight and blood pressure, following numerous publications in the last 3 years, (ii) assess whether other measures of size at birth are related to blood pressure, and (iii) study the role of postnatal catch-up growth in predicting blood pressure.

Data identification: All papers published between March 1996 and March 2000 that examined the relationship between birth weight and systolic blood pressure were identified and combined with the papers examined in a previous review.

Subjects: More than 444,000 male and female subjects aged 0-84 years of all ages and races.

Results: Eighty studies described the relationship of blood pressure with birth weight The majority of the studies in children, adolescents and adults reported that blood pressure fell with increasing birth weight, the size of the effect being approximately 2 mmHg/kg. Head circumference was the only other birth measurement to be most consistently associated with blood pressure, the magnitude of the association being a decrease in blood pressure by approximately 0.5 mmHg/cm. Skeletal and non-skeletal postnatal catch-up growth were positively associated with blood pressure, with the highest blood pressures occurring in individuals of low birth weight but high rates of growth subsequently.

Conclusions: Both birth weight and head circumference at birth are inversely related to systolic blood pressure. The relationship is present in adolescence but attenuated compared to both the pre- and post-adolescence periods. Accelerated postnatal growth is also associated with raised blood pressure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Birth Weight / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies