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New insight on managing risk of chronic conditions in adults born preterm

Posted:  Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Premature birth can literally be termed a Pandora’s box, what with it increasing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, pregnancy complications and other chronic diseases in adulthood. However, not all is lost for adults who were born preterm. A new review has now come up with valuable insight for doctors to help them identify adults born prematurely. This will enable them to prevent and manage chronic diseases in those at risk.

The review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is a welcome addition to the literature on health issues in adults who were born preterm. This is particularly so because there are no guidelines governing the long-term management of these adults.

Young adults born prematurely are at a 40% greater risk of premature death than those born at term. Adults born preterm are also at greater risk of other health issues like diabetes (including gestational diabetes), respiratory dysfunction and bone abnormalities such as osteoporosis and fractures.

Doctors should consider asking patients their perinatal history just as they would enquire about their smoking or family history. This would help them identify adults born prematurely at risk for longstanding health issues. The review also recommends the following to prevent and manage longstanding diseases in these adults:

•    Regular monitoring of blood pressure to help deal with risk of early heart disease, including monitoring of pregnant women who were born preterm

•    Pulmonary function testing for adults who have long-standing respiratory issues

•    Calcium-rich diets and weight-bearing exercises to prevent osteoporosis and reduce fracture risk

•    Preterm birth should be considered as a risk factor for metabolic syndrome

Summarising the benefit to be accrued in future, the authors of the review said, “By identifying patients who were born prematurely, we can take steps for which they may be at risk to help prevent early death and allow a patient to live a longer, healthier life."

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