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Pregnant Smokers Raise Their Child's Risk of Stroke, Heart Attack

Women who smoke during pregnancy can cause permanent vascular damage in their children — increasing their risk for stroke// and heart attack, according to a research.

The Netherlands Atherosclerosis Risk in Young Adults (ARYA) study showed that participants who were exposed to smoke when their mothers were pregnant resulted in permanent cardiovascular damage that could be detected in young adulthood.

"This is the first report to demonstrate this association," said Cuno S. Uiterwaal, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher and associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands. "This is a preventable risk factor. Women need to stop smoking, especially in pregnancy, not only for their own health, but for their unborn child."

Smoking during pregnancy can result in intrauterine growth retardation and low birth weight. Active and passive smoking in young adults also is associated with cardiovascular disease. But until the Dutch study, researchers were unsure whether this is due to a cumulative effect of smoke or whether children are vulnerable at specific periods, such as during gestation.

The study’s 732 participants were born in 1970-73 and vascular risk measurements were performed in 1999-2000. Uiterwaal and colleagues found that adult offspring of the 215 mothers who smoked during pregnancy had thicker walls of the carotid arteries in the neck. The carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT), an ultrasound measurement of the thickness of the inner walls of the neck arteries, is used to determine the level of atherosclerosis. Offspring whose pregnant mothers were exposed to smoke had 13.4 micrometers thicker CIMT by young adulthood when compared to the offspring of mothers who did not smoke in pregnancy, researchers reported.

Even after the researchers adjusted for other risk factors in the young adults such as age, gender, body mass index, pulse pressure and c
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