Premature babies face a greater risk of dying from heart failure, a major new study suggests. Infants born before the 28th week of pregnancy are 17 times more likely to develop the condition than those carried to full-term. While those who entered the world before 31 weeks, where survival is around the 95 per cent mark, were at triple the risk, scientists found.
The study was published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Swedish researchers say it’s because premature babies are exposed to life outside the womb at a time when their organs are not fully ready.
This means their body isn’t fully prepared for the radical transition to the real world, affecting their cardiovascular development. More than 2.6 million individuals born between 1987 and 2012 were assessed by the team at the Karolinska Institutet.
They looked into the rates of heart failure during childhood and adolescence – which is attracting increasing scientific attention. In the long term, premature birth may lead to these complications: cerebral palsy; impaired cognitive skills; vision problems; hearing problems; dental problems; behavioural problems; and chronic health issues.
Some health organisations across the world already recognise it as a risk in some babies born early who have a specific defect. But the new findings show it to be a problem for all premature infants and back-up a host of evidence which indicate those born early are at higher risk of hypertension, stroke and heart disease.
The results also corroborate earlier studies indicating abnormal development of the cardiovascular system in people born prematurely. Lead author Hanna Carr, a doctoral student, said: “We found that the risk of heart failure was higher for individuals born preterm.”
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