Signs of heart disease detected in newborns

Thickened arteries, the first signs of heart disease, are emerging in babies born to overweight mothers, says a new study.

The thickening of body's major artery, the aorta, which heralds heart disease, is independent of the child's birth weight.

It may explain how obese mums, who make up more than half the women of child bearing age in the developed world, could heighten their babies' subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease, suggest authors of the study, reports the journal Foetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease of Childhood.

A group of women, with an average age of 35 years, were included in the study when they were 16 weeks pregnant. Ten of the babies born were boys, and birth weights ranged from 1.85 kg to 4.31 kg, according to a Sydney University statement.

The abdominal aorta, which is the section of the artery extending down to the belly, was scanned in each newborn within seven days of birth to find out the thickness of the two innermost walls - the intima and media.

Intima-media thickness ranged from 0.65-0.97 mm, and was tied to the mother's weight. The higher a mum's weight, the greater was the baby's intima-media thickness,
irrespective of how much the baby weighed at birth.

"The earliest physical signs of atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries) are present in the abdominal aorta, and aortic intima-media thickness is considered the best non-invasive measure of structural health of the vasculature in children," says Michael Skilton from the University  of Sydney, who led the study.

This may explain how a mother being overweight might affect her child's subsequent risk of heart disease and stroke later in life, the study said.

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