In a study from Sahlgrenska University Hospital, scientists found people born with heart defects may face a nearly ninefold higher lifetime risk for heart failure and develop it decades earlier than people born without heart abnormalities.
Though heart failure is extremely rare in young people, any occurrence in young congenital heart defect survivors signals a need for better screening and follow-up, starting early and continuing throughout their lifetime.
Congenital heart defects describe any heart abnormality present at birth. This happens when the heart, or blood vessels near the heart, fail to develop normally during pregnancy.
There are at least 18 types of structural abnormalities that can occur.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congenital heart defects occur in about 1% of – or 40,000 – babies born in the U.S. each year.
Previous studies have shown that people born with heart defects face a higher risk for heart failure than others.
Heart failure – a condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should – is the leading cause of death for people with heart defects, who have a lower life expectancy than people without them.
Because it rarely occurs in young people, most heart failure research focuses on adults, whereas the new research looked at people from birth.
The new study used national health records and cause of death data for people in Sweden.
The researchers compared 89,532 people born with heart defects between 1930 and 2017 with a control group of 890,469 people without heart defects.
During an average of 25 years of follow-up, the team found 7.8% of people with congenital heart defects were diagnosed with heart failure.
In people born with healthy hearts, 1.1% developed heart failure during an average of 27 years of follow-up.
Overall, the lifetime risk for heart failure was 8.7 times higher for people born with heart defects than those born without.
And the more complex the defect, the greater the risk. Those with more complex defects faced a threefold higher risk of heart failure than those with less complex defects.
The team also found the risk for developing heart failure differed greatly by age group.
Those 17 and younger with heart defects faced 220 times higher risk than their peers without heart defects.
The differential fell as the groups aged. For those 60 to 69, the risk was five times higher in people with heart defects.
Researchers suggest that this study shows how much more concerning heart failure is for younger people.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about a simple way to reduce irregular heartbeat, and Vitamin C linked to a lower risk of heart failure.
The study was conducted by Dr. Niklas Bergh et al and published in Circulation.
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