Climate change may be linked to heart defects in newborns. The Journal of the American Heart Association just released new research that shows how higher temperatures are related to congenital heart issues in babies born in warmer months.
With climate change worsening, mothers in the U.S. are exposed to more heat than ever before. Scientists have previously shown that women who are exposed to heat during pregnancy have a higher chance of having a baby born with a congenital heart defect. Every year in the U.S., around 40,000 newborns have heart issues at birth.
According to CNN, the number of babies born with heart defects is expected to rise between 2025 and 2035 as temperatures continue to heat up across the U.S. The study predicted that around 7,000 additional cases of heart defects will occur during the 10-year stretch, with the Midwest region seeing the biggest rise.
“Our results highlight the dramatic ways in which climate change can affect human health and suggest that pediatric heart disease stemming from structural heart malformations may become an important consequence of rising temperatures,” Dr. Wangjian Zhang explained.
Heart problems are among the most common issues doctors see in newborns. Babies who are born with heart defects have poor overall health and can experience issues in early development as well.
It is unclear why excess heat contributes to heart problems in newborns. Previous studies conducted on animals have shown that heat is detrimental to fetal cells and can disrupt proteins that are important in development. This could be what is going on in human pregnancies, though more research is needed to confirm.
With heat being linked to heart problems, doctors are now warning women to avoid excess heat exposure while pregnant. This is similar to what doctors have been telling people with pulmonary and cardiovascular disease for years.
Unfortunately, climate change will continue to drive temperatures up all across the U.S. Locations that will be directly impacted include the Midwest, the South and southeastern states, like North Carolina and Georgia. In addition to heart issues, women exposed to heat are also at a greater risk of giving birth early.
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