Increasing evidence suggests preterm birth is a risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adulthood. Whether there is effect modification by hypertension on CVD risk is unknown. To investigate the associations between preterm birth, hypertension, and incident CVD, we identified 2,303 women aged 50 to 79 years who self-reported being born preterm from the Women's Health Initiative. Using multivariable logistic regression, prevalent hypertension at enrollment, age at hypertension diagnosis, and antihypertensive medication use were compared by birth status (preterm, full-term). Risk of incident hypertension, coronary heart disease, and CVD were analyzed using multivariable Cox proportional-hazard models. Both models adjusted for age, race/ethnicity, education, smoking, physical activity, body mass index, and diabetes mellitus. Significant associations were found between preterm birth and prevalent hypertension (37% vs 33.1%; adjusted odds ratio 1.26 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.15 to 1.28] p = <0.0001), early-onset hypertension (<50 years) (14.7% vs 11.7%; adjusted odds ratio 1.31, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.48, p = <0.0001), and incident hypertension (53.2% vs 51%; ajusted hazard ratio 1.10, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.19, p = 0.008). Preterm-born women reported taking more antihypertensive medications (2.9% vs 2.6%, p = 0.04). Preterm birth had a nonsignificant association with CVD risk, but when stratified by prevalent hypertension, women born preterm without hypertension had elevated CVD risk compared with women born full-term without prevalent hypertension. Women with prevalent hypertension, preterm and full-term, had similar magnitudes of elevations in CVD risk. In conclusion, preterm birth increases the risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease. With 10% of the population born preterm, birth history should be assessed as a CVD risk factor.
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