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Study Looks at Effect of Smoke on Infant Heart Function

Dysfunctions could be precursor or early marker of long-term susceptibility to hypertension

TUESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Early exposure to cigarette smoke may lead to a persistent reprogramming of infant blood pressure control mechanisms, according to a study published online Jan. 25 in Hypertension.

Gary Cohen, M.D., of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues compared cardiovascular reflex function from birth to 1 year in 17 infants whose mothers smoked an average of about 15 cigarettes per day and 19 control infants born to non-smoking couples.

During a 60-degree head-up tilt test, the researchers found that blood pressure increased by 2 percent above baseline at 1 week and 10 percent at 1 year among control infants. However, they observed reverse results in tobacco-exposed infants, whose blood pressure increased by 10 percent above baseline at 1 week and by only 4 percent at 1 year. In tobacco-exposed infants, they also observed an exaggerated heart rate response to the tilt test at 3 months and 1 year.

"The long-term significance of reprogramming is uncertain at present, but by increasing vulnerability to stress it could open the gateway to such problems as hypertension later on," the authors conclude. "Identifying precursors or early markers of susceptibility to these complications has broad public and global health implications because it may lead to earlier diagnosis, treatment, and perhaps prevention of cardiovascular disease."

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