Washington D.C.: One’s future health can be predicted as early as they are born. A new study highlighted that an infant’s birth weight and height together can help in telling doctors if the baby is born with a heightened risk of heart issues later in life.
Birth weight tells us about the fetal growth, while height gives a more complete picture of both fetal growth and growth trajectory, said Dr Brian Stansfield, a neonatologist at the Medical College of Georgia.
Measures called ponderal index, or PI, as well as the more widely used body mass index, or BMI, which both account for height and weight, are known to provide a more accurate indication of fetal growth and what’s ahead for the child.
The findings of the study published in the journal ‘Early Human Development’ indicated that a low PI or low BMI at birth should be considered as a risk that needs attention and intervention.
“When you look at birth weight alone, you are looking at a measure at a single point in time, which is a big problem when it comes to projecting out,” said Stansfield.
It’s known that perinatal growth which is affected by numerous factors from genetics to environmental ones like the mother’s health and habits like smoking, nutrition, and gestational diabetes, has important implications for heart development, and animal and human studies have associated low birthweight with heart problems and death.
For this study, they looked at 379 healthy black and white adolescents aged between14-18. Parents provided their children’s birth weight and length, which were used by investigators to calculate a BMI and PI.
The group showed that a low PI, where increases in height and weight are out of sync during development, was most associated with an increase in the size of the major pumping chamber of the heart, the left ventricle, which is considered a risk for future cardiovascular disease.
Two-dimensional echocardiography was used to non-invasively look at the children’s left ventricle for telltale indicators of hypertrophy like thickening of the walls and less blood being pumped out.
Then they studied the relationships between birth weight and birth BMI and PI and the structure and function of the left ventricle in the children.
Stansfield noted that at the time of this study, about 25 per cent of the adolescents had obesity or were overweight and most were on an upward trajectory with their BMI, which is not good.
Children with an upward trajectory had about a 30% likelihood they would become obese compared to those with a downward trajectory, who showed a 5% likelihood.
There was also about a 40 per cent increase in visceral adiposity, fat around the belly and the organs inside the abdominal cavity, which is considered particularly unhealthy in adolescents with the upward versus downward BMI trajectory.
This study found that a low PI had the highest association with risk factors for heart problems, but the more widely used BMI is also a good tool, researchers noted.
“We believe our findings are a call to paediatricians to be even more diligent in measuring and noting birthweight and length parameters,” Stansfield pointed.
This very early measure of height and weight can provide lifelong insight into an individual’s risk of heart and other diseases, he added.