People who have been born underweight, that is, babies in the first decile (corresponding to 10% of babies born with the lowest weight), have more cardiovascular problems when they are adults. This means that these people are up to three times more likely to suffer from a myocardial infarction. They are also at a higher risk for high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
A study coordinated by a team from BCNatal (Hospital Clínic, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu and the University of Barcelona) and IDIBAPS, with support from La Caixa Foundation, shows that those people who were born underweight show differences in the structure and function of the heart and have less abilities to do exercise compared to the other population during adulthood. The paper has been published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.
The research team, led by Eduard Gratacós, professor at the University of Barcelona, director of BCNatal and head of the Foetal and Perinatal Medicine Research Group (IDIBAPS), was the first to show in previous studies that an important part of the problem these babies have lies in the heart. “We observed that the heart of those babies born with a low weight show differences in the function and structure, and these differences that come up in the foetal life remain until adolescence”.
Something left to find was whether the changes in structure and function of the heart remain in adulthood, and this has been studied in the paper published in JAMA Cardiology. “It is a pioneering study, which combines sophisticated computer-assisted analytical techniques to study the shape of the heart with MRI with an effort test”, notes Marta Sitges, director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Institute, head of the Cardiac Imaging Research (IDIBAPS) and co-author of the study.