-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Jan. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children who were
small during the early stages of fetal development may be at
increased risk for heart problems, a new study indicates.
The findings suggest that the first three months of pregnancy
may be a crucial period for heart health later in life, the Dutch
researchers said. They noted that the first trimester includes a
period of rapid development when the heart and other major organs
begin to form.
The investigators assessed nearly 1,200 children at age 6 for
cardiovascular risk factors such as amount and distribution of body
fat, blood pressure and cholesterol and insulin levels.
Compared to children who were largest during the first trimester
of pregnancy, those who were smallest had significantly more total
fat and fat around the abdomen, higher blood pressure and unhealthy
cholesterol levels, the study found.
Being smaller during the first trimester was also associated
with an increased risk of having a number of these cardiovascular
risk factors during childhood, according to the study published
online Jan. 23 on
But the study only uncovered a link between small size during
the first trimester and potential heart problems. It did not prove
a cause-and-effect connection.
Further studies are needed to identify why smaller size during
the first trimester seems associated with increased risk of heart
problems in childhood, as well as the long-term consequences,
concluded Vincent Jaddoe, a professor of pediatric epidemiology at
the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, and
This study adds to growing evidence that slow fetal growth is
associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and
other health problems in later life, Gordon Smith and Catherine
Aiken, from the University of Cambridge in England, wrote in an
But before rushing to intervene, "we need a deeper understanding
of the strength, nature and mechanisms of the reported
associations," the researchers added.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about a
baby's development during the first
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