WEDNESDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Children born to mothers
who smoked during pregnancy have lower levels of "good" HDL
cholesterol, which may increase their risk of heart attack and
stroke later in life, a new study suggests.
Australian researchers looked at 405 healthy 8-year-old children
and found that those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had HDL
levels of about 1.3 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), compared to a
normal level of 1.5 mmol/L in children whose mothers didn't
It's not known how smoking during pregnancy lowers HDL levels in
The study was published June 21 online in the
European Heart Journal.
"Our results suggest that maternal smoking 'imprints' an unhealthy set of characteristics on children while they are developing in the womb, which may well predispose them to later heart attack and stroke. This imprinting seems to last for at least eight years and probably a lot longer," study leader David Celermajer, a professor of cardiology at the University of Sydney, said in a journal news release.
He and his colleagues noted that rates of smoking by pregnant
women are still high -- about 15 percent in most Western nations.
This means their findings could prove important in efforts to
prevent heart disease.
"Children born to mothers who have smoked during pregnancy will need to be watched particularly carefully for other coronary risk factors," such as smoking, high blood pressure and high levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, Celermajer said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
smoking and pregnancy.