Adults exposed to elevated cholesterol levels in utero – as they grew inside their mother’s womb – and who had heart attacks later in life were more likely to experience severe outcomes, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
As part of this retrospective review, researchers evaluated the medical records of 310 adults who received hospital care and had data available about their mother’s cholesterol levels during the pregnancy. Among these patients, 89 experienced a heart attack. The remaining 221 were hospitalized for other reasons and served as controls for the study. Patients hospitalized for a heart attack and exposed to elevated cholesterol levels in utero were more likely to experience a severe event, such as a heart attack that affected multiple arteries, compared to patients without the same exposure. This association remained even after researchers controlled for age, gender, body weight, and other heart disease risk factors. Based on this review, the researchers conclude that fetal exposure to a mother’s high cholesterol levels in utero may serve an independent risk factor for heart attack severity later in life. The average age of patients who experienced a heart attack was 47.
The study was partially supported by the NHLBI.