Early foetal development is the time when cardiovascular risk is first evident, leading to heart health issues later on in life, reveals Chemist Direct

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Chemist Direct encourages expecting mothers to ensure proper care and nutrition during the first trimester to avoid increased heart disease risk later on in their offspring.

Baby Heart Health

Heart health issues can be detected in early foetal development

The first trimester of pregnancy may be a critical period for development of offspring cardiovascular risk factors in later life.

Human foetal development is the most dramatic and reaches the highest rates of growth during the first trimester of pregnancy. In the third week after gestation the embryo begins the basic growth and development of the brain, spinal cord, heart and gastrointestinal tract, followed in the next few weeks by the development of the limbs and sensorial organs.

Because of the critical vulnerability of the developing cells during this time, expecting mothers must ensure that adequate amounts of nutrition and vitamins such as folic acid are consumed in order to prevent defects in any of the organs.

Developmental adaptations in these organs are also determined by the mother’s exposure to harmful substances in the environment which may also cause increased risks of chronic disease in early childhood or adulthood. By actively being aware of important aspects of heart health, both of the mothers and the foetus, the instances of increased heart disease later on in life can be minimized, according to evidence in a new study published by the British Medical Journal. http://bit.ly/1aCcW7P

In this study nearly 2,000 children born in the Dutch city of Rotterdam were followed from the 10th to 13th week of gestation to the age of six to track the health markers for cardiovascular disease risk. The amassing of central body fat, instances of high blood pressure, high insulin levels and high cholesterol, all indicators of health issues later on in life, were more prevalent in those who showed a low birth rate and slower development as a foetus in the first trimester scan.

"These results suggest that the first trimester of pregnancy may be a critical period for development of offspring cardiovascular risk factors in later life," said Prof Vincent Jaddoe, who led the study team from Erasmus University Medical School. "Therefore adverse maternal lifestyle habits influencing early foetal growth may have persistent consequences for their offspring, many decades later.” http://bit.ly/1fvnrFs

In another study published in The Cell, http://bit.ly/1fmi7q0 US researcher Professor Tamas Horvath, from Yale School of Medicine, and co-author Dr Jens Bruning, from the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Germany found that the diet of expecting mothers also played a role in effecting the long-term metabolic health of their children through developmental changes in the foetus during the final third trimester.

Mothers who suffered obesity during pregnancy passed on genetic coding that changed the neurological wiring of the foetus, substantially increasing the risk of developing long-term disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and uncontrolled central body fat.

Although scientists now understand the direct link between the mothers nutritional intake and health risks to the developing foetus and cardiovascular defects, further study is needed to understand why this pattern exists and what it might mean for preventing heart disease and other chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

When pregnant or if planning a family, speak to your GP or midwife about precautions to take or how to minimise pollutants such as smoke, so that development continues smoothly without passing on heart risks or any other health issues.

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Samantha Smith
Chemist Direct
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