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Newborns of Smokers Have Abnormal Blood Pressure
Date:1/25/2010

Researchers say aberrations persisted, could raise risk for heart disease later

MONDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Babies of women who smoked during pregnancy have blood pressure problems at birth that persisted through the first year of life, a new study finds.

"What is of concern is that the problems are present at birth and get worse over time," said Gary Cohen, a senior research scientist in the department of women and child health at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and lead author of a report in the Jan. 25 online edition of Hypertension. "They're not going away, they're getting worse."

The study led by Cohen compared 19 infants of nonsmoking couples with 17 infants born to women who smoked an average of 15 cigarettes a day during pregnancy. At one week of age, the infants of nonsmoking mothers experienced a 2 percent increase in blood pressure when tilted upright, with a 10 percent increase at one year. The pattern for the children of smoking mothers was reversed: a 10 percent blood pressure increase at one week, a 4 percent increase at one year.

And the heart rate response to tilting of the children of mothers who smoked was abnormal and exaggerated, the report said.

It's not possible to say whether the abnormalities seen in the babies will lead to trouble later in life, Cohen said. But, he noted, "the extent of the condition at one year suggests that it is not going to disappear quickly."

The reason why exposure to tobacco in the womb affects blood pressure is not clear, Cohen said. A leading possibility is that "smoking might damage the structure and function of blood vessels," he said, mainly by damaging the endothelium, the delicate layer of cells that line the interior of blood vessels.

Whether that damage will persist is not known. "We're only up to 12 months at the moment," he said. "We plan to follow them."

The damage seen in the Karolinska stu
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