8 Tips to Help Babies' Hearts
American Heart Association Issues New Recommendations to Help Prevent Congenital Heart Defects
May 22, 2007 -- The American Heart Association has issued eight new
recommendations to help reduce
congenital heart defects in babies.
The recommendations include actions women can take before becoming
The recommendations, printed in the journal Circulation, are as
- Take a multivitamin that contains folic acid.
- Get preconception and prenatal medical care.
- Get screened for diabetes. If you have diabetes, manage it carefully during
- Get vaccinated against rubella and influenza (flu).
- If you have an inherited disease called PKU (phenylketonuria), which
affects your diet, talk to your doctor about proper nutrition during
- With your doctor, review any medicines you use, including over-the-counter
- Avoid contact with people who have the flu or other feverish
- Avoid exposure to organic solvents, found in products including paints and
Those tips, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, come from
doctors who reviewed research on uninherited risk factors for congenital heart
They included Catherine Webb, MD. She works in Chicago as a pediatric
cardiologist at Children's Memorial Hospital and as a pediatrics professor at
Northwestern University's medical school.
Prevention Prior to Pregnancy
In an American Heart Association news release, Webb stresses "the need
to think about prevention of heart defects in babies before conception and very
early in pregnancy.
"Paying attention to parental lifestyle issues and the association with
congenital heart disease is a good start," says Webb.
"However," she adds, "congenital heart disease may still occur
in children despite excellent prenatal care and the very best efforts on the
Webb's team only reviewed observational studies, which don't directly test
strategies to prevent congenital heart defects. It's possible that unmeasured
factors affected the studies' results.
Webb and colleagues aren't blaming congenital heart defects on what parents
did or didn't do before having a baby. Doctors often don't know exactly why
congenital heart defects occur, and genes can play a role in congenital heart
"It is very important to continue to learn much more about prevention of
congenital heart disease through ongoing research," says Webb.