When I found out my baby's expected birth date, I immediately thought of what kind of birthday parties he'd eventually have (indoor vs. outdoor) and whether he'd be among the oldest in his class. You know, all the important stuff. What I didn't have access to—thankfully—was a brand-new chart that predicts the risk of future disease based on birth month and season.
To create this so-called wheel of afflictions (my name, not theirs), researchers at Columbia University used an algorithm to examine medical records of some 1.7 million patients who were treated at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). Ultimately, they were looking for—and found—a connection between specific diseases and conditions and when someone was born. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
It's important to note that researchers focused on 1,688 diseases and found a birth-month link in only 16 of them. Though babies born in May have the best chance of warding off lifetime diseases, their peers who arrived in March are at the highest risk for a slew of cardiac issues, including atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and mitral valve disorder. (Sorry, son.) Meanwhile, early fall was linked to the highest number of diseases, including respiratory, reproductive, and neurological. (Check out the full chart here.) These findings jibe with ones from previous studies.
But as scary as that information is, researchers don't want us parents to freak out. "It's important not to get overly nervous about these results because even though we found significant associations, the overall disease risk is not that great," Nicholas Tatonetti, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at CUMC and creator of the chart, said in a statement. "The risk related to birth month is relatively minor when compared to more influential variables like diet and exercise."
In other words, two things we can totally control.
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter Pinterest, and Google+.
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