Skip to main content

Small size in early pregnancy linked to poor heart health later in life

Poor growth in the first three months of pregnancy is associated with a range of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood, finds a study published on bmj.com today.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence and suggest that the first trimester of pregnancy may be a critical period for cardiovascular health in later life.

The first trimester of pregnancy includes the ‘embryonic phase’ (a period of rapid development when the heart and other major organs start to form). So a team of researchers in the Netherlands decided to examine whether poor growth during this period is associated with cardiovascular risk in childhood.

The study involved 1,184 school age children with first trimester crown to rump length measurements (commonly used to estimate fetal age) whose mothers had a known first day of their last menstrual period and a regular cycle.

Several factors, such as mothers’ age, ethnicity, education, smoking status, body mass index and blood pressure were also recorded.

At around age six, children were assessed for cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, body fat distribution, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin concentrations.

Using first trimester crown to rump length, the researchers split the group of fetuses into fifths. Compared with those in the highest fifth, those in the lowest fifth (the smallest fetuses) had, at age 6, significantly more total fat mass and android fat mass (fat stored around the abdomen), higher diastolic blood pressure and an adverse cholesterol profile.

First trimester growth restriction was also associated with an increased risk of clustering of these cardiovascular risk factors in childhood.

The authors acknowledge that some of their associations may have arisen by chance, but suggest that the first trimester might be a critical period for cardiovascular and metabolic function.

“Further studies are needed to identify the underlying causal biological mechanisms and long term consequences,” they add. Future strategies to improve cardiovascular health “may start from early pregnancy onwards or even before conception,” they conclude.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Gordon Smith and Catherine Aiken from the University of Cambridge say despite some limitations, this study adds to a growing body of evidence that fetal growth restriction is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular – and many other – diseases in later life.

But they add “we need a deeper understanding of the strength, nature and mechanisms of the reported associations before rushing to intervene.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

Noise pollution puts nature at risk

 "I just want a bit of peace and quiet!" Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle; the sound of endless traffic on the roads, of the trains on the railway, and the planes in the sky; the incessant drone; the noise. We live in a world of man-made noise; screeching, bellowing, on-and-on in an unmelodious cacophony.  This constant background noise has now become a significant health hazard.   With average background levels of 60 decibels, those who live in cities are often exposed to noise over 85 decibels, enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.  It causes stress, high blood pressure, headache and loss of sleep and poor health and well-being.   In nature, noise has content and significance.  From the roar of the lion, the laughing of a hyena,  communication is essential for life; as the warning of danger, for bonding as a group or a pair, finding a mate, or for establishing a position in a hierarchy - chattering works.  Staying in touch is vital to working

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba