Low weight at birth is linked to children developing cardiovascular diseases later in life, according to a study with implications for planning interventions to help kids stay away from heart diseases as they grow up.
The study, published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, looked at the 20,000 fifth-graders born in West Virginia in the US and discovered that if the children had a low weight at birth, they were more likely to exhibit cardiovascular risk factors at their current age.
The researchers from West Virginia University mentioned that low birth weight was linked to higher levels of 'bad' cholesterol and fat molecule triglyceride, along with lower levels of 'good' cholesterol," in the children.
Taken together, the study noted that these traits were risk factors for heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease, atherosclerosis, and other disorders. "Previously it was thought that risk factors for cardiovascular diseases were only observed in adults because cardiovascular disease is mostly seen in adults," said co-author of the study Amna Umer.
However, Umer added that in the past few years, the risk factors are "observed in children as well."
As part of the study, the researchers considered the children's birth weight, body mass index in fifth grade, along with their levels of triglycerides -- fat that circulates in the blood -- and various cholesterol types.
They also took into account the children's socio-demographics, family medical histories, among other factors, and found that the relationship between these risk factors and low birth weight remained significant.
‘’Low birth weight doesn't just happen at birth spontaneously," said co-author of the study Christa Lilly. Lilly added that it was a sign of slow growth in the womb, providing an opportunity for parents to intervene during pregnancy to reduce suboptimal growth of the foetus.
But it is not that there's nothing a parent can do if their infant has low birth wait, the researchers cautioned.
"Now that you know there's a low-birth-weight baby, you can make sure they have proper postnatal feeding, monitor their growth and teach kids about good diet, nutrition, physical activity and prevention of risky health behaviors such as smoking. You can intervene from childhood into adulthood," Umer said.