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Childhood Malnutrition Boosts Hypertension in Adulthood

Update Date: Jun 30, 2014 10:25 PM EDT

Not getting enough nutrients in childhood could increase the risk of high blood pressure in adulthood, according to a new study,

New research published by the American heart Association reveals that inadequate nutrition before birth and up to age five can significantly harm 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 latest study examined 115 adults who suffered malnutrition growing up in Jamaica to 45 men and women who did not suffer malnutrition. The participants were all between the ages of 20 and 40. Researchers measured participants' height, weight and blood pressure levels, and underwent had subjects undergo echocardiograms or imaging tests to evaluate heart function.

The findings revealed that participants who suffered early childhood malnutrition were more likely to show higher diastolic blood pressure readings and peripheral resistance. Their hearts were also less efficient in pumping.

Researchers believe preventing childhood malnutrition could significantly lower the risk of high blood pressure in the general population.

"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," Forrester concluded.

The findings were published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

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