Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Circulation. 2001 Oct 2;104(14):1633-8.

Birth weight and blood pressure in young adults: a prospective twin study.

Author information

  • 1Faculty of Medicine, Center for Human Genetics, Hypertension and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Unit, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Department of Sport and Movement Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



The intrauterine environment may be a critical period for the development of hypertension in later life. In the present study, we applied the twin approach to estimate the contribution of genetic and environmental causes that may underlie the birth weight-adult blood pressure association.


Birth weights of 418 twin pairs were obtained prospectively, and resting and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressures were obtained at the age of 18 to 34 years. In women, resting systolic blood pressure decreased 4.27 mm Hg (P<0.001) and diastolic pressure decreased 2.18 mm Hg (P=0.02) per kilogram increase in birth weight. Similar associations were found for ambulatory measurements, although these were somewhat less pronounced. Pair-wise analysis confirmed these findings: twin pairs of whom both members had a low birth weight (<2500 g) had a higher systolic blood pressure compared with twins who both had a high birth weight (>/=2500 g). Systolic blood pressure of the lightest of a low-birth-weight pair was >/=4.7 mm Hg (P=0.02) higher and of the heaviest >/=2.4 mm Hg higher (P=0.2) than similar measurements in high-birth-weight pairs. Intrapair differences in blood pressure between the lightest and the heaviest at birth were only present in low-birth-weight pairs. The results were similar for monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs. In men, no associations were found between birth weight and adult blood pressure.


These findings suggest that prenatal programming of adult blood pressure occurs at least in female twins. We suggest that particularly maternal influences, experienced by both twin members, may underlie the association between birth weight and blood pressure. The fetoplacental unit seems to influence blood pressure only when both fetuses had low birth weight.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk