Mom’s Heart Health While Pregnant Could Influence Her Child’s Health for Years

pregnant womanIn a finding that suggests heart health starts in the womb, a new study shows that the state of a woman’s heart during pregnancy may predict her kids’ health by the time they reach adolescence.

Researchers found that when mothers’ weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels were less healthy during pregnancy, their children were at heightened risk for those same issues.

The reasons are not certain, but it could be a matter of both biology and lifestyle, said lead researcher Dr. Amanda Perak. She’s an assistant professor at Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

Genes, as well as the effects of the uterine environment on fetal development, could be at work, Perak said. Plus, she added, kids’ diets and exercise habits likely mirror their parents’.

Regardless of the reasons, Perak said the findings add to evidence that heart risk factors take shape early, and maybe even before birth.

Experts called the findings “important,” by showing that pregnancy could be a critical time in determining future heart health.

“The health of moms during pregnancy could impact future generations,” said Dr. Nisha Parikh, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a volunteer expert with the American Heart Association.

That’s not to say anything is set in stone, Parikh stressed: If pregnant women are not in optimal cardiovascular health, their kids still can be, with the help of a healthy diet and exercise.

But ideally, Parikh said, women should go into pregnancy at a healthy weight, not smoking and with normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.