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Preterm Babies Have a Higher Risk of Heart Failure Later in Childhood

Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of heart failure during childhood and adolescence according to new European research.

AFP Relaxnews

Updated:May 26, 2017, 4:43 PM IST
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Preterm Babies Have a Higher Risk of Heart Failure Later in Childhood
Preterm babies have a greater risk of suffering heart failure during their childhood and adolescence according to new research. (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ dblight/ Istock.com)

Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of heart failure during childhood and adolescence according to new European research.

More and more babies are surviving preterm birth, leading researchers to become more interested in the consequences of being born prematurely, which exposes babies to life outside the womb when their bodies are not fully prepared and their organs not fully developed.

Previous studies have already found an association between preterm birth and a higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke and cardiovascular disease, however this new study, carried out by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, has revealed a previously unknown link between preterm birth and heart failure.

The large-scale study looked at 2.6 million individuals born between 1987 and 2012, and found that babies born before the 28th week of pregnancy are 17 times more likely to suffer heart failure than those born at full term.

Those born between weeks 28 to 31 are three times more likely to experience heart failure.

The findings still held true even after researchers had taken into account other factors that could influence results, such as birth weight, socioeconomic situation and parental heart conditions, and after those with birth defects had been excluded.

However, the researchers did point out that heart failure is still very rare in children and young adults, and the risk of developing the condition very small, even for those who were born preterm.

"It could be the case that the higher risk of heart failure remains when they grow older, in which case more people will be affected as heart failure is much more common in older people," added associate professor and project leader Anna-Karin Edstedt Bonamy, "In general the risk of heart failure can be reduced by adopting a healthy lifestyle, including refraining from tobacco use, keeping physically active, minimizing your alcohol consumption and occasionally checking your blood pressure."

The study was financed by Stockholm County Council Research Service, the Karolinska Institutet Clinical Scientist Training Programme and the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).

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