18 Feb Maternal Cardiovascular Health Linked to Offspring’s Heart Health in Adolescence
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Amanda Marma Perak, MD, MS
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology) and Preventive Medicine (Epidemiology)
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Chicago Illinois 60611
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The American Heart Association has formally defined cardiovascular health (CVH) based on the combination of 7 key health metrics: body mass index (weight versus height), blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, diet, exercise, and smoking status. As we previously showed, the vast majority of pregnant women in the US have suboptimal CVH levels during pregnancy. We also showed that maternal CVH during pregnancy was associated with the risk for adverse newborn outcomes (such as high levels of body fat), but it was unknown what this might mean for longer-term offspring health.
In the current study, the key finding was that mothers’ CVH levels during pregnancy were associated with their offspring’s CVH levels 10-14 years later, in early adolescence. For example, children born to mothers in the poorest category of CVH (representing 6% of mothers) had almost 8-times higher risk for the poorest CVH category in early adolescence, compared with children born to mothers who had ideal CVH in pregnancy. Even children born to mothers with any “intermediate” CVH metrics in pregnancy — for example, being overweight but not obese — had over 2-times higher risk for the poorest CVH category in early adolescence.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: The key message is that optimizing the total intrauterine environment, through the mother’s CVH levels, may be an important way to help her offspring have better CVH in childhood and less CVD later in life. Additionally, knowledge of the mother’s CVH levels during pregnancy may help to identify newborns who are at higher risk for poor CVH in childhood and thus may especially benefit from early-life interventions aimed at optimizing health behaviors.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: The current study is observational and describes associations — it doesn’t tell us whether improving a mother’s CVH during pregnancy would result in better CVH for the child. Clinical trials are needed to answer that question, and to determine the best way to improve the mother’s CVH either before or during pregnancy. Further studies are also needed to understand the underlying biological mechanisms that might explain why a mother’s CVH during pregnancy affects the offspring’s CVH. If we know those mechanisms, that may help us to develop effective interventions to improve CVH in newborns and children who were already exposed to an adverse intrauterine environment.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
If readers would like to learn more about CVH, they can go to the American Heart Association websites for CVH in adults (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/my-life-check–lifes-simple-7/be-healthy-for-good-with-lifes-simple-7-infographic) and children (https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/HowtoMakeaHealthyHome/Lifes-Simple-7-for-Kids_UCM_466610_SubHomePage.jsp?ssSourceSiteId=professional). If they would like more information on healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, they can start with the US Department of Health and Human Services website: https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/pregnancy/doctor-and-midwife-visits/have-healthy-pregnancy.
My funding sources are listed in the paper (and do not include any commercial entities).
Perak AM, Lancki N, Kuang A, et al. Associations of Maternal Cardiovascular Health in Pregnancy With Offspring Cardiovascular Health in Early Adolescence. JAMA. 2021;325(7):658–668. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.0247
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Last Updated on February 18, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD