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blood pressure, cortisol, hypertension, low birth weight



  1. Covelli, Maureen McCormick PhD, RN
  2. Wood, Charles E. PhD
  3. Yarandi, Hossein N. PhD


Low birth weight (LBW) has been associated with increased blood pressure and the development of cardiovascular disease including hypertension. Elevated blood pressure, cortisol, and hyperresponsiveness during physiologic stress may function as hypertension biological markers. We examined the association of blood pressure and cortisol levels during induced physiologic stress with LBW in an African American adolescent population (n = 106).


Methods and Results: Birth weight was obtained from parents. Blood pressure and cortisol levels were measured at rest and in response to an induced physiological stressor. Compared with normal birth weight group (n = 73), the LBW group (n = 33) demonstrated elevated (+4 mm Hg) diastolic pressure (P = .002) and cortisol hyperresponsiveness (P = .05). Seventy-nine percent of LBW adolescents had elevated blood pressure and/or cardiovascular reactivity (P = .04), and 39% had elevated blood pressures.


Conclusions: Low birth weight African American adolescents demonstrated physiological risk factors for hypertension, and these findings add support to the association between LBW and the development of hypertension.