Objective: Although the causality of the obesity--hypertension association is established, the potential for prevention is not. We hypothesized that weight gain between early adulthood and mid-life is associated with higher mid-life blood pressure.
Methods: We investigated the hypothesis using a large contemporaneous population-based mid-life cohort of men and women aged 50-64 years. Recalled body weight at age 20 years was self-reported, and mid-life body weight and office blood pressures were measured in accordance with a detailed protocol.
Results: On average, men had gained 14.9 (95% CI 14.6-15.2) kg of weight, and women 14.6 (95% CI 14.4-14.9) kg, between age 20 years and the mid-life examination, corresponding to 0.40 (95% CI 0.39-0.41) kg/year for men and women. Both weight at age 20 years and weight at the mid-life examination were associated with mid-life blood pressures. On average, a 10 kg weight increase between age 20 years and mid-life was associated with 2.2 (95% CI 0.9-3.5) mmHg higher systolic and 1.7 (95% CI 0.9-2.5) mmHg higher diastolic mid-life blood pressure in men, and 3.2 (2.5-4.0) mmHg higher systolic and 2.4 (1.9-2.9) mmHg higher diastolic mid-life blood pressure in women. Mid-life weight was more closely associated than weight at age 20 years with mid-life blood pressure. For a given mid-life weight, blood pressure was higher in persons with higher weight gain from age 20 years.
Conclusion: In sum, weight gain between early adulthood and mid-life was associated with higher mid-life blood pressure. The magnitude of the association indicates a potentially great public health impact of strategies to prevent weight gain throughout adulthood.