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

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

The secret life of Giant Pandas

Giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca , have usually been regarded as solitary creatures, coming together only to mate; but recent studies have begun to reveal a secret social life for these enigmatic bears.  GPS tracking shows they cross each others path more often than previously thought, and spend time together.  What we don't know is what they are doing when together.  Photo by  Sid Balachandran  on  Unsplash For such large mammals, pandas have relatively small home ranges. Perhaps this is no surprise. Pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo. The only real threat to pandas has come from humans. No wonder then that the panda is the symbol of the WWF.  Pandas communicate with one another through vocalization and scent marking. They spray urine, claw tree trunks and rub against objects to mark their paths, yet they do not appear to be territorial as individuals.  Pandas are 99% vegetarian, but, oddly, their digestive system is more typical of a carnivore. For the 1% of their diet

Work Capability Assessments cause suffering for the mentally ill

People suffering from mental health problems are often the most vulnerable when seeking help. Mental health can have a major impact on work, housing, relationships and finances. The Work Capability Assessments (WCA) thus present a particular challenge to those suffering mental illness.  The mentally ill also are often the least able to present their case. Staff involved in assessments lack sufficient expertise or training to understand mental health issues and how they affect capability. Because of  concerns that Work Capability Assessments will have a particularly detrimental effect on the mentally ill,  an  e-petition  on the government web site calls on the Department of Work and Pensions to exclude people with complex mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders. Problems with the WCA  have been highlighted in general by the fact that up to 78% of 'fit to work' decisions are  being overturned on appeal. It is all to the good that they