Mothers who deliver preterm infants at higher risk for heart disease later in life

Pregnant women who deliver babies before 37 weeks of gestation have a 40 percent increased risk of experiencing cardiovascular disease later in life, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation.

For the study, researchers examined health data on 70,182 mothers. After adjusting for race, age, education level and lifestyle habits that could contribute to the onset of heart disease and preterm delivery, researchers found preterm birth to be independently associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

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"Delivering a preterm infant may be an early warning signal of high risk for cardiovascular disease," said Lauren Tanz, first author and a programmer and analyst at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and a doctoral student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. "Since cardiovascular risk develops over a lifetime, it's not too early for these women to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle."

The study's authors said further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between preterm delivery and heart disease.

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