Nav: Home

Premature hearts less able to cope with exercise

March 19, 2018

The hearts of people born prematurely are less able to cope with the pressures of exercise in adulthood, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and part-funded by the British Heart Foundation.

The findings might explain why people born prematurely are more likely to develop heart failure in later life.

In the UK in 2016, more than 60,000 babies were born prematurely, accounting for around 8 per cent of all live births. Globally, these rates range from 5 to 18 per cent.

While we know that those born prematurely are more likely to suffer with heart conditions as adults, researchers are yet to fully understand the biological reasons for this.

To tackle this question, researchers at the University of Oxford compared the heart function of 47 adults who were born prematurely (before 37 weeks) with 54 people who were carried to term (37 weeks or later). They were particularly interested in how the volunteers' hearts responded to exercise.

They found there was little difference in the heart's performance while the participants were resting. When people born prematurely used an exercise bike at moderate exercise intensities, however, the percentage of blood leaving the heart during each heartbeat (ejection fraction) was on average 7.3 per cent lower than that of people who were carried to term.

The more prematurely a person was born, the lower the capacity of the heart to pump blood during exercise.

During exercise, the heart rate normally increases, along with the amount of blood pumped out of the heart by the left ventricle (also known as the stroke volume). However, the team found that the hearts of people born prematurely were less able to make these changes in response to exercise. In the earliest stages of exercise, the increase in heart rate and stroke volume was 56 per cent lower in those born prematurely compared to those who were carried to term.

The researchers believe that this finding may help to explain why people born prematurely are at greater risk of developing heart failure, when the heart muscle does not have enough strength to pump blood around the body.

The team are now looking at whether an exercise programme for young adults who were born prematurely helps the heart to cope better with exercise and reduces the risk of future heart failure.

Dr Adam Lewandowski, BHF Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and lead investigator on the study, said:

"Thanks to advances in modern medicine, there are a huge number of people alive today who were born prematurely. But we're only just beginning to understand the impact this start in life has on the heart.

"By unpicking the mechanisms that link premature birth to heart failure, we hope to develop strategies to keep this population healthier for longer."

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

"Neither expecting parents, nor people who know they were born prematurely should let these findings worry them. Most babies born prematurely will live long and active lives, and won't go on to develop heart failure as adults.

"But the results do shed light on the way our hearts develop and how this could be different if you're born prematurely. The research also offers us new ideas for how we can help these people to protect their hearts for a lifetime.

"By understanding how the heart is affected by premature birth, we may be able to better identify people at risk of heart problems so they can be treated proactively, for example, by recommending exercise training and helping them to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels."

Odaro J. Huckstep, PhD student at the University of Oxford and first author of the manuscript, said:

"Many factors contribute to our overall heart health. In recent decades, we have learned a good deal more about some factors like blood pressure and family history. We know less about how preterm birth relates to heart health and are trying to change that through our research.

In many ways, our health is like a card game. Having a good hand can have a lot to do with how we play our cards. We are working to advance the understanding of how preterm birth relates to heart health so that we can help identify the best ways to optimize health and also minimize risk. We hope this will help a lot of people to play their cards well, and also enjoy the game.
-end-
The full paper, 'Physiological Stress Elicits Impaired Left Ventricular Function in Preterm-Born Adults', can be read in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

ENDS

To request interviews or for more information please call the BHF press office on 020 7554 0164 (07764 290 381 - out of hours) or email newsdesk@bhf.org.uk.

To find out more information about BHF-funded stroke research or the signs and symptoms of a stroke visit http://www.bhf.org.uk/stroke<p>British Heart Foundation

For over 50 years we've pioneered research that's transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help. From babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many Mums, Dads and Grandparents who survive a stroke or heart attack. Every pound raised, minute of your time and donation to our shops will help make a difference to people's lives.

Find out more at bhf.org.uk

British Heart Foundation

Related Heart Failure Articles:

Type 2 diabetes may affect heart structure and increase complications and death among heart failure patients of Asian ethnicity
The combination of heart failure and Type 2 diabetes can lead to structural changes in the heart, poorer quality of life and increased risk of death, according to a multi-country study in Asia.
Preventive drug therapy may increase right-sided heart failure risk in patients who receive heart devices
Patients treated preemptively with drugs to reduce the risk of right-sided heart failure after heart device implantation may experience the opposite effect and develop heart failure and post-operative bleeding more often than patients not receiving the drugs.
How the enzyme lipoxygenase drives heart failure after heart attacks
Heart failure after a heart attack is a global epidemic leading to heart failure pathology.
Novel heart pump shows superior outcomes in advanced heart failure
Severely ill patients with advanced heart failure who received a novel heart pump -- the HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist device (LVAD) -- suffered significantly fewer strokes, pump-related blood clots and bleeding episodes after two years, compared with similar patients who received an older, more established pump, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session.
NSAID impairs immune response in heart failure, worsens heart and kidney damage
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are widely known as pain-killers and can relieve pain and inflammation.
More Heart Failure News and Heart Failure Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...