Heart Disease in Family Bad News for Babies

Risk of low birthweight newborns greater in these cases, study finds

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TUESDAY, Sept. 23, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Women from families with a history of early death from coronary artery disease may be more likely to have underweight babies than other women, says a British study in the current issue of Heart.

Low birth weight is a risk factor for heart disease as an adult.

Researchers studied information on more than 3,000 Scottish women who gave birth between 1969 and 1991. Of those women, 190 (nearly 6 percent) gave birth to a baby weighing less than 5.51 pounds, classified as low birth weight. And 214 gave birth prematurely (less than 37 weeks).

Nearly one in three of the 3,310 women reported that a first-degree relative had suffered an early death from arterial heart disease. An early death is defined as before age 55 in men and before age 60 in women.

Among the 1,040 women who reported a family history of early death linked to heart disease, 68 (6.5 percent) had given birth to underweight babies, compared with 5.4 percent of women with no reported history of family heart disease.

After adjusting the results for other risk factors for premature birth/low birth weight -- such as alcohol, smoking, social class, diabetes and weight -- the researchers concluded that a family history of ischemic heart disease independently increased a woman's risk of having an underweight baby by 37 percent and of premature birth by 31 percent.

The authors say their findings suggest a genetic link between susceptibility to coronary artery disease and low birth weight. They say that larger studies are needed to confirm that conclusion.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about low birth weight.

SOURCE: Heart, news release, Sept. 17, 2003

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