Malnutrition during childhood is linked with higher diastolic blood pressure, higher resistance to blood flow, and poor heart function during adulthood, according to a new study.
New research conducted by researchers at the University of the West Indies reveals the link between inadequate nutrition before birth and up to age five and the harm caused to the heart’s development.
“If nutritional needs are not met during this time, when structures of the body are highly susceptible to potentially irreversible change, it could have long-term consequences on heart anatomy and blood flow later in life,” study senior author Terrence Forrester, Ph.D., study senior author and chief scientist, UWI Solutions for Developing Countries, at the University of the West Indies, Mona, in Kingston, Jamaica, said in a news release.
“We are concerned that millions of people globally who suffer malnutrition before or after birth are at increased risk of hypertension in later life,” Forrester added.
The study was documented in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
The height, weight and blood pressure levels of 116 adults suffering from malnutrition while growing up in Jamaica. They were then compared to 45 men and women with adequate nutrition during childhood.
Most of the participants were between the age group of 20-30 years. Apart from this, they also underwent echocardiograms or imaging tests so that their hearts’ function could be evaluated.
The results showed that adults who survived early childhood malnutrition had: Higher diastolic blood pressure readings (the bottom number in a blood pressure measurement), Higher peripheral resistance (a measurement of the resistance to blood flow in smaller vessels), Less efficient pumping of the heart.
These factors clearly indicated an increased risk for high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 8.3 million children thrived in food-insecure households in 2012.
Addressing malnutrition comprehensively could help prevent and manage high blood pressure, Forrester said.
“Such an investment in nutrition and general health will have huge public health dividends, including these longer-term risks of chronic heart and metabolic diseases that cost so much in human lives,” he said.
Co-authors of the study are Ingrid A. Tennant; Debbie S. Thompson; Alan T. Barnett; Jan Kips; Edward E. Chung; Andrene P. Chung; Clive Osmond; Patrick Segers; Michael S. Boyne; Mark A. Hanson; Peter D. Gluckman and J. Kennedy Cruickshank.