Preterm Birth and the Shape of Your Heart
Preterm birth, i.e., delivery more than 3 weeks before term, affects annually an estimated 13,000,000 newborn infants and rates are increasing1. Only in the USA, about 500,000 infants are born preterm each year and of those, 80,000 are delivered very preterm (more than 8 weeks before the expected date). Without effective care, the number of deaths among very preterm infants would equal that of major causes of death in adults, such as Alzheimer's disease or essential hypertension. While mortality after preterm birth was high until a few decades ago, advances in perinatal medicine have resulted in almost universal survival2 so that the concept of prematurity nowadays is shifting from being a pregnancy complication to a common developmental basis for a whole and new generation of young adults. Although this progress is very welcome for women delivering preterm, their infants and their families, there is an increasing concern because preterm birth has been identified as an emerging risk factor for arterial hypertension3-5, diabetes6,7, cardiovascular disease8 and stroke9 in later life.
- Received November 27, 2012.
- Accepted December 3, 2012.
- Copyright © 2012, American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited