How Individuals’ Birth Weight and Later Risk Factors Interact to Determine Their Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Longitudinal Study in the Philippines

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), which are disorders of the heart and blood vessels, are the world’s leading cause of death (WHO, 2016). The transition from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), primarily CVDs, as the primary cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide— combined with the economic burden associated with heart-related diseases—prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) and its regional offices to identify CVDs’ risk factors (WHO, 2016). This paper examines these risk factors with a focus on the fetal environment and its interaction with adult body mass index (BMI), using longitudinal data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS).

Using a Cox proportional hazards model to estimate hazard ratios adjusted for age and risk factors in adulthood, such as cigarette smoking, the results suggest that there is a positive association between birth weight and heart disease. In addition, when birth weight is interacted with BMI, raised blood pressure is found to be higher among those who were bigger infants at birth and grew to be lighter adults, suggesting centile crossing. Probit models are also used for sensitivity analysis, and the results are consistent with those of the hazards model. Other factors such as adult obesity and a smoking habit are also positively associated with hypertension and CVD.

Keywords: Fetal origins hypothesis, CLHNS, hazards model, CVD, adult risk factors