Women who are obese or overweight in early pregnancy may increase their child’s risk of having a heart attack later in life, according to a new Australian study. Research suggests that increasing rates of obesity in women could lead to higher rates of heart attack in the future.
The study conducted by the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne and the University of Sydney compared the thickness of the wall of the aorta in babies with the body mass index (BMI) of the mother at 16 weeks’ gestation. Body mass index indicates body fatness and is calculated by taking into account a person’s weight and height. An estimated 60 percent of women of reproductive age in developed counties are overweight or obese.
Reviewing 23 pregnant women researchers found that the higher the BMI of the mother, the thicker the newborn’s aorta -- a sign of early atherosclerosis. Babies born to women with a BMI of 25 or above had aortic walls that were .07 mm thicker than babies with normal-weight mothers.
“Potentially it means these kids are at an increased risk of having heart attacks in adulthood irrespective of what they do in their life -- whether or not they become obese,” said study co-author Michael Skilton, a vascular physiologist at Sydney University’s Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders. “The good thing is that they have enough time to start exercising, eating well and doing all the things you can do” to improve heart health.
Skilton says the group plans to study as many as 1,000 more women as part of Melbourne the research project. The research findings were published Tuesday in a letter to the medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition.