November 22, 2007 / 5:38 PM / in 12 years

Women at long-term heart risk after preterm delivery

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many decades after giving birth to a preterm infant, women appear to be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers found.

In the current issue of the journal Epidemiology, Dr. Janet M. Catov of the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and colleagues note that there is evidence of such an association and they sought to determine whether it held over the long haul.

The team examined data on 446 women with a mean age of 80 years, who were taking part in an aging and health study. Six percent reported that they had given birth to a preterm infant an average of some 57 years earlier, 9 percent had had a term infant weighing less than 2500 grams, and 4 percent had had an infant that was both preterm and of low birth weight.

After adjustment for factors including use of heart-protecting statin drugs and age, women who had had a preterm infant were more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease as women who had not.

Women who delivered infants that were both preterm and of low birth weight had a greater than threefold higher odds of having cardiovascular disease.

“Our research raises the possibility that women with preterm birth may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease later in life,” Catov told Reuters Health.

“Although more work is needed to understand the mechanisms that may relate these conditions,” she concluded, “preterm birth may mark women who could benefit from early screening and lifestyle changes to improve their cardiovascular health.”

SOURCE: Epidemiology, November 2007.

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