Friday, August 16th, 2013
Babies who are born before the 37th week of pregnancy have been shown in a new study to carry an elevated risk of developing heart disease as an adult, specifically affecting the heart’s right ventricle, which controls the heart’s ability to pump blood. More from CBS News:
The researchers behind the new study, published Aug. 12 in Circulation, point out that that up to 10 percent of young adults today are born premature.
“We wanted to understand why this occurs so that we can identify the small group of patients born premature who may need advice from their health care provider about this cardiovascular risk,” said study author Paul Leeson, a professor of cardiology at the University of Oxford’s Cardiovascular Clinical Research Facility in the U.K., in a press release. “The changes we have found in the right ventricle are quite distinct and intriguing.”
The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation.
The human heart contains four chambers: the right and left atria — which receive and collect blood — and right and left ventricles, which pump blood from the heart into the circulatory system and rest of the body.
The ventricle on the right side of the heart, specifically, pumps blood from the heart to the lungs, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
When breathing air in, a cycle kicks off in which oxygen is passed from the lungs through blood vessels and into the blood. Then, carbon dioxide (waste) is passed from the blood through the lungs where it’s removed when you breathe out. The left atrium is what receives this oxygen-rich blood from the lungs, which is then pumped out by the left ventricle into the main artery of the body, the aorta. Then it is delivered to the rest of the body.
The researchers followed a group of premature babies born in the 1980s until they were about 25. They were given standard heart tests checking for blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition to MRI machines to measure patients’ blood vessels and heart structures. They then created a computer model to determine how much blood is being pumped in their hearts.
“Their hearts appear to be slightly smaller, they had slightly thicker walls and had a slight reduction of the blood they are pumping,” Leeson told CBS News’ Alphonso Van Marsh of those born prematurely, when compared to those born at full term.
People with these types of changes in the right ventricle’s structure are more likely to have mild to moderate cases of high blood pressure (hypertension), and are at an increased risk for heart failure or cardiovascular-related death, according the researchers.
Image: Heart monitor, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
The high volume of salt-laden snack foods consumed by American children is the culprit cited in an article published in the journal Hypertension for a marked rise in cases of high blood pressure among US kids and teens. The percentage of kids between ages 8 and 17 with high blood pressure–a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes–has increased 27 percent over the past 13 years, according to researchers. More from NBC News:
The new research, published Monday in the journal Hypertension, positively links rising blood pressure to increasing body mass index, especially waist circumference, and sodium intake. In short, far too many American children are too fat and eating too many salty snacks.
More than a third of children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The reason we’re seeing high blood pressure in kids, is due to the obesity epidemic,” said pediatrician Dr. Joanna Dolgoff.
Dolgoff has been seeing elevated blood pressure in so many of her young patients, she thought her equipment was broken.
“Recently, I’ve been a lot more of my patients having high blood pressure,” Dolgoff, a child obesity expert and creator of the “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” nutrition program, said. “I thought perhaps my blood pressure machine was broken. But actually the incidence of high blood pressure in children is increasing.”
Being overweight is a key risk factor for high blood pressure in adults so “it stands to reason that it would be the same in children,” said Dolgoff.
Image: Child having blood pressure taken, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
A review of 14 scientific studies has found that regular physical exercise has benefits beyond cardiovascular health–it also can help kids perform better in the classroom. The New York Times reports:
…all three of the studies that measured time spent in physical activity found it associated with academic performance, and the two rated highest in methodological quality confirmed a positive relationship between physical activity and school achievement.
The reasons for the connection are unknown, but the researchers suggest that exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and may lead to increased levels of norepinephrine and endorphins, important in stress reduction.
The lead author, Amika S. Singh, a senior researcher at VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said there was no evidence about exactly how much or what kind of exercise is beneficial. But, she added, “I think it’s healthy to look for a good balance between time spent in academic work and in physical activity.”
Image: Girl playing in the snow, via Shutterstock.
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