Mother’s cardiovascular health status may be able to predict child’s onset of heart disease, suggests new study
An unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and alcohol abuse are some of the key behavioural risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD). These behavioural or lifestyle risk factors can also lead to hypertension, high blood glucose levels, unhealthy lipid profiles and obesity, all of which are even more serious risk factors and predictors of CVD onset in the future. However, these risk factors can be reduced and CVD incidence due to them prevented.
Genetic risk factors for CVDs
The only risk factor for CVD which is not under your control – and therefore cannot be put off completely through a healthy lifestyle – is the genetic one. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that there is now growing evidence that CVDs have a sizable hereditary component and polymorphisms (disease-causing gene mutations that are passed down generations) associated with CVDs should be better identified to control the growing prevalence of CVDs in the world.
A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology throws much-needed light on the hereditary risk factors of CVDs. Conducted by scientists at Vanderbilt University and the University of Massachusetts, this study is reportedly the first of its kind to examine if parents’ cardiovascular health is associated with the age at which their children develop cardiovascular diseases. The study also examined the genetic influence of each parent separately in order to account for any sex differences.
How parental health affects a child’s CVD risks
The study observed a total of 5,967 offspring-mother-father trios from the Framingham Heart Study. The cardiovascular health score of all participants was categorised as poor, intermediate and ideal based on the American Heart Association’s cardiovascular health metrics. The ideal category in this metric system included seven habits: not smoking, healthy diet, physical activity, normal body mass index, controlled blood pressure, good cholesterol profile and well-maintained blood glucose. Sex-specific differences between parental cardiovascular health and offspring’s CVD-free survival were mapped using regression models.
The researchers found that there were 718 cases of events among the offspring. They also discovered that the offspring of mothers in the ideal category of cardiovascular health lived nine more CVD-free years than offspring of mothers in the poor cardiovascular health category. Maternal poor cardiovascular health was associated with two times higher the risk of early onset of CVDs compared to ideal maternal cardiovascular health. The association between paternal cardiovascular health and CVD onset in offspring was not found to be statistically significant.
The researchers, therefore, concluded that maternal cardiovascular health was a more robust predictor of the offspring’s CVD risk and onset. If women of reproductive age are in good cardiovascular shape, then not only will they reduce their own risks of CVDs but even the children born to them are more likely to be free of CVDs for longer durations (given their behavioural risk factors are under control too). This, the researchers argue, highlights the need for better clinical and policy interventions that help mothers break this intergenerational cycle of CVD-related morbidity and mortality. They call for family-based interventions for both pregnant women and early in a child’s life so that the benefits of having perfect cardiovascular health are instilled early on.
For more information, read our article on Heart disease.
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