Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide and modifying risk factors, like high blood pressure, can help reduce the risk of future events, including a heart attack or stroke. A study in Environmental Health Perspectives details how fetal exposure to heavy metals, like lead and mercury, which have been connected to increased cardiovascular risks among adults, and trace elements, including manganese and selenium, which may have a protective effect, may impact childhood blood pressure years later.
Among 1,194 pregnant women in the Boston Birth Cohort Study, those who had higher blood levels of selenium and manganese, which can be found in nuts and fish, were more likely to have children with lower systolic blood pressure levels at ages 3-15. In utero exposure to lead, mercury, and cadmium, which may result from breathing heavy fumes, having contact with lead-based paint or metals, or living near pollution, didn’t have a significant effect on a child’s blood pressure years later. However, manganese helped offset higher levels of cadmium, which is more common among women who smoke. Therefore, the authors note there may be an opportunity to reduce future risks of high blood pressure among children born to women with higher levels of cadmium by supporting optimal manganese levels during pregnancy.
The study was supported by the NHLBI, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.