Environmental Exposures During Pregnancy, Early Life May Lead to High BP in Children

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Where a mother lives and the temperature outside while she is pregnant, among other environmental factors, can impact whether her child is prehypertensive or hypertensive during childhood, according to a study published Sept. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Charline Warembourg, PhD, et al., examined data from 1,277 mother-child pairs from the Human Early-Life Exposome (HELIX) project, which pooled data of six European birth cohorts from the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Lithuania, Norway and Greece. The selected children were between the ages of 6 and 11, had stored blood and urine samples available and had no prior health problems. At the time of the examination, 10 percent of the children could be classified as prehypertensive or hypertensive.

Researchers evaluated a total of 89 prenatal maternal exposures and 128 postnatal child exposures. Of these, four broader environmental factors were determined to influence blood pressure (BP) status in children: Built environment (where the mother was living during pregnancy), outdoor temperature, fish intake and exposure to chemicals.

Mothers who lived in a walkable environment with access to green spaces, shops, restaurants and public transportation during pregnancy were associated with normal BP in their children, while the children of mothers who did not live in an urban or highly walkable environment had higher BP. The researchers hypothesized that the lower BP resulting from living in an urban setting was due to the greater amount of physical activity during pregnancy.

Exposure to a higher outdoor temperature during the time of the BP assessment was associated with lower diastolic BP in children. Both low and high fish intake during pregnancy were associated with an increase in BP in children. While the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are beneficial for overall cardiovascular health, fish contaminated by chemicals or metals could reduce any positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

Exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA) concentrations – a chemical found in various consumer plastics – during pregnancy resulted in higher BP in children, as did exposure to perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) concentrations – a chemical found in cosmetics, household cleaners or clothing. Children who had been exposed to copper during childhood also had a higher BP.

"In this study, the researchers presented a comprehensive analysis of the association of early-life environmental exposures with blood pressure in children," said Andrea A. Baccarelli, MD, MPH, PhD, in an accompanying editorial comment. "Due to the innovation shown by the researchers, this study provides a model that may greatly advance investigations of the influences of environmental exposures on human health."

Keywords: Pregnancy, Blood Pressure, Maternal Exposure, Mothers, Copper, Plastics, Temperature, Fatty Acids, Omega-3, Restaurants, Lithuania, Environment Design, Benzhydryl Compounds, Phenols, Blood Pressure Determination, Caprylates, Fluorocarbons, Clothing, Cosmetics, Transportation

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