September 2, 2008 / 8:38 PM / 9 years ago

Early weight gain may lead to hypertension: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Babies who gain weight rapidly in the first months after birth may have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure as adults, British researchers said on Tuesday.

Researchers have been trying to understand more of the causes of high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Low birth weights also have been associated with an increased risk for high blood pressure later in life.

The new study sought to determine if growth patterns in the first five years of life also were associated with a risk of high blood pressure in adulthood. The researchers tracked 679 young adults around age 25 in Britain.

They found that those who gained weight more rapidly in the first five months after birth and again from about age 2 to 5 were more likely to have high systolic blood pressure.

Immediate weight gain after birth also was linked to higher adult diastolic blood pressure, they found.

Systolic blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries while the heart contracts. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.

“When trying to understand why some people get high blood pressure in later life, we need to consider a life course approach that considers early life as well as adult life risk factors such as dietary salt and obesity,” Yoav Ben-Shlomo of the University of Bristol in Britain, who led the study published in the journal Hypertension, said in a statement.

High blood pressure -- sometimes called the “silent killer” because it can go undetected for years -- raises a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.

Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Vicki Allen

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