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Birth Weight's Link to Hypertension Varies by Race

Black newborns, but not whites, face a higher risk if born heavy, study finds

WEDNESDAY, July 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Black American children born heavier at birth may be at higher risk for increased blood pressure, researchers report. The association was not seen among white children.

The Johns Hopkins University study analyzed data on nearly 30,000 children, from birth to age 7.

The researchers found that the relationship between birth weight and blood pressure among black children remained significant even after they accounted for factors related to the mother.

Poverty and low education among mothers were also strong risk factors for high blood pressure in children, the researchers said.

The findings, published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, appeared to contradict a recent theory that children born with a lower birth weight are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure later in life.

The study results also suggested that, if blood pressure actually is "programmed" at birth, then this process may differ by race.

"Our study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that public health initiatives to prevent chronic diseases such as hypertension may need to begin as early as the prenatal and early-childhood period," study leader Dr. Anusha H. Hemachandra said in a prepared statement.

"Exploring racial disparities in the developmental origins of health and disease is a critical step toward understanding the mechanisms of fetal programming and eventually developing interventions against chronic disease," Hemachandra said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and high blood pressure.

SOURCE: American Society of Nephrology, news release, July 26, 2006
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