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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Public Health

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Hypertension is a chronic disease with an estimated prevalence of nearly 50% in US adults. In addition to sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, evidence suggests that in utero and early life exposures may contribute to life-long risk of hypertension. This study aimed to investigate the potential associations between an individual’s birthweight and preterm birth status with their risk for hypertension in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) cohort. WHI is a large, multi-racial cohort of postmenopausal women. At study entry, birthweight and preterm birth status were self-reported by category (< 6 lbs., 6-7 lbs. 15 oz., 8-9 lbs. 15 oz., or ≥ 10 lbs.; ≥ 4 weeks premature or full term). Baseline and incident hypertension status were self-reported; mean systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and 30-second pulse were also recorded at baseline by trained study staff. Linear, logistic, and Cox-proportional hazards regression models were used to generate crude and adjusted beta estimates, odds ratios, and hazards ratios, respectively. After adjusting for demographic and lifestyle factors, we found that participants born at a low birthweight had a higher mean systolic blood pressure than participants born at a normal birthweight and were at increased risk for both baseline and incident hypertension. Women born at a higher birthweight had a lower mean systolic blood pressure and were at lower risk for baseline and incident hypertension. When compared to participants born full term, participants born preterm were at increased risk for baseline and incident hypertension. These results support current research on early life exposures and health risks later in life. Long term follow-up or targeted counseling may be required for individuals born prematurely or at low birthweights to prevent and treat hypertension and associated cardiovascular outcomes.


First Advisor

Cassandra Spracklen

Second Advisor

Susan Sturgeon

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.