Childhood Risk Factors Predict Heart Attacks in Adulthood
Senior study author Murdoch Children’s Professor Terence Dwyer said “despite the effect medical and surgical care has had on treating heart disease, the major impact will depend on effective preventive strategies. This study confirms that prevention should begin in childhood.
“Longitudinal studies like these have been hampered by a lack of inclusion of comprehensive childhood data around body measurements, blood pressure, and blood lipids and a failure to follow-up at ages when cardiovascular disease becomes common.
“Studying early life influences on disease has always been put in the too hard basket. But researchers in i3C took up this challenge because we knew the potential benefits to human health at the end could be very substantial.”
The study involved 38,589 participants from Australia, Finland and the US, who were followed from age 3-19 years for a period of 35-50 years.
Professor Dwyer said the research found the five risk factors, individually or in combination, present in childhood were predictors of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events.
The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that risk for adult cardiovascular events were seen in over half the children studied, with some whose risk was nine times as much as those with below average risk factors.
Professor Dwyer said “while this evidence had not been available previously, the findings were not entirely surprising as it had been known for some time that children as young as five already showed early signs of fatty deposits in arteries. This new evidence justified a greater emphasis on programs to prevent the development of these risk factors in children. Clinicians and public health professionals should now start to focus on how this might best be achieved.