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Early Growth Patterns Can Predict Heart Disease

According to recent research, growth patterns established in the womb and early childhood can predict development// of heart problems at a later age.

Researchers have linked a birth weight under 6.6 pounds, a body mass index (BMI) below 16 at age 2, and a BMI above 17.5 at age 11 with a significantly increased risk of heart disease in adulthood. People with these factors as children were three times more likely to develop heart problems as those whose BMIs fell from over 17 at age 2 to under 16 at age 11.

For the study, published in the October 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Finland conducted a review of the histories of 357 men and 87 women who went on to develop coronary heart disease as adults by 2003, and this showed a clear pattern.

Children who displayed that pattern also were likely to develop insulin resistance, a known risk factor for heart disease. They were also at nearly three times the risk of developing heart disease as adults compared to those with a more normal growth pattern.

The investigators believe the ratio of muscle to fat may hold the key to link early growth and heart disease risk. They say babies who weigh less at birth have less muscle, and as they get older tend to put on proportionally more fat when they gain weight, especially when the weight gain is rapid. This higher percentage of fat compared to muscle can lead to insulin resistance, which is known to increase the risk for heart disease.

The research, led by David Barker, was carried out at Oregon Health and Science University in the United States and the University of Southampton in Britain.

The authors stress that women should take care of themselves while they are pregnant to avoid having a low birth weight baby. Then ensure their infants receive adequate nutrition so they gain enough weight early in life. After that, children need to eat a nutritious diet and get plenty of physical acti
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