Preemies may have higher risk of heart disease
Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of developing heart disease as an adult, according to research from the University of Oxford in England. Preemies were found to experience differences in how their hearts form, which affects how it functions as an adult. They often have hearts that are smaller, heavier and have thicker walls with reduced pumping activity compared to babies born at full term. And that may help increase their chances of developing heart disease as adults.
This study looked at 102 premature infants and 132 infants born at full term, and tracked them until they were between 23 and 28 years of age. Of the premature infants, 14 percent were born at less than 28 weeks, 58 percent were born between 28 and 31 weeks, and 31 percent were born between 32 and 36 weeks. The study used MRI techniques to measure the participants' hearts and blood vessels, in addition to conducting blood pressure and cholesterol measurements.
The results indicate that the right ventricle – the part of the heart that pumps deoxygenated blood to the lungs – was significantly different in people born prematurely than the control subjects. The earlier the pre-term birth, the more significant the impact on the heart.
With nearly 10 percent of today's adults a product of premature birth, this discovery could help doctors diagnose or prevent potentially fatal heart conditions.