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Parent Smoking During Pregnancy Raises Kids' Heart Risks
Date:11/20/2008

More carotid artery thickening in these young adults points to danger, study finds

THURSDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Damage to the arteries of children of smokers can be detected in the early decades of their lives, a new Dutch study finds.

"Smoking in families is harmful for children, including their cardiovascular system, as was found in many other studies," said research leader Dr. Cuno S.P.M. Uiterwaal, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the University Medical Center in Utrecht. "This study adds that tobacco smoke exposure may have such effects already in very early life."

Uiterwaal and his colleagues reported the finding in the December issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology that they used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the walls of carotid arteries, the major blood vessels to the brain, in 732 young adults, average age 28. Records showed that 29 percent of the mothers and more than 60 percent of the fathers smoked during the pregnancies.

The inner lining of the carotid arteries was thicker for the young adults who had both parents smoking during pregnancy, a sign of potential danger in the years ahead. The thickening was strongest for maternal smoking.

"We believe that our findings with regard to fetal exposure may serve as a first signal which will have to be confirmed by other research in this area," Uiterwaal said.

It has long been known that "exposure to tobacco smoke of pregnant women is bad for many reasons, such as low birth weight and increased risk for childhood respiratory disease," he said. "Our study now adds that it may also already harm the cardiovascular system of the unborn child."

The study does need confirmation, Uiterwaal said. "We are indeed trying to do a similar study in healthy young children, 5-year-olds, as that would eliminate many of the possibly confounding influences in later childhood," he said.
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