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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Slow growers 'at blood pressure risk'
Measuring height
A child's rate of growth may be important
Slow growth during childhood may increase the risk of high blood pressure in later life, say researchers.

A team from the Royal Free Hospital in London studied 149 people from a survey of 1,352 families across the UK.

They studied the height, blood pressure, diet and lifestyle of the participants between 1937 and 1939, when they were five to eight years old.

Then they collected more data in 1997 and 1998 by which time the volunteers had reached old age.

The researchers found that systolic blood pressure - the pressure during heart beats - and pulse rates were highest in those who had been shortest as children.

Volunteers who had been tall as children had the lowest measurements.

The association remained after adjustment for risk factors such as diet.

It was also found that work stress was most likely to increase the risk of high blood pressure among those who were short as children.

The researchers say that growth rate before puberty may be linked to the way the body reacts to stress later in life. Stress is linked to blood pressure.

Childhood stress may not only slow growth rate, but impair physiological control of the stress response.

Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, the scientists said: "Environmental exposures during periods of rapid growth are likely to be particularly important in influencing subsequent blood pressure."

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