UPBEAT-TEMPO-HEART: how improving health during pregnancy could lead to healthier hearts in children

Dr Dharmintra Pasupathy, Dr Paul Taylor, Professor Lucilla Poston, Dr Annette Briley, Ms Claire Singh, Dr Matias Costa Vieira, Ms Humra Chadwick

Researchers supported by Tommy’s are looking at whether changing diet and lifestyle during pregnancies could help babies to have healthier hearts.

In the UPBEAT trial, obese women changed their diet and lifestyle during pregnancy to improve their health and lower their weight. Now, we want to see if these changes have helped their children to have healthier hearts when they are 3-4 years old. This will also let us find out if obesity during pregnancy might harm the health of a child’s heart.

To do this, we will use non-invasive tests to measure blood pressure, heart rate, and how stiff the blood vessels are in 3-4 year olds. We will also use a new way of imaging the heart using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to look at how well the heart is working in newborn babies.

We will study 100 3-4 year old children of UPBEAT mothers, some of whom changed their diet and lifestyle during pregnancy. We will then compare them to children born to mothers of a healthy weight.

So far, we have looked at 103 newborn babies since February 2014. These include 26 babies from UPBEAT mothers, 23 from obese mothers who were not part of UPBEAT, and 54 women of a healthy weight. We expect to have completed 75 MRI scans by August 2018. We have also recruited 53 3-year-olds from UPBEAT mothers, and 44 3-year-olds from non-obese women.

In the long run, making simple changes during pregnancy could help protect against heart disease as adults. If we find that this is true, we could then advise all obese pregnant women that a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy will help to protect their babies’ hearts in the future.

This study is part of the multinational EU EarlyNutrition project.

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This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by Tommy's, the British Heart Foundation, EU EarlyNutrition, the National Institute for Health Research's Clinical Research Network, and the CAPES program (Brazil)

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