A mother’s high blood pressure during pregnancy may have an effect on her child’s thinking skills all the way into old age, according to new research.
“High blood pressure and related conditions such as preeclampsia complicate about 10 percent of all pregnancies and can affect a baby’s environment in the womb,” said study author Katri Räikönen, Ph.D., with the University of Helsinki in Finland.
“Our study suggests that even declines in thinking abilities in old age could have originated during the prenatal period when the majority of the development of brain structure and function occurs.”
The researchers began by looking at medical records for the mother’s blood pressure in pregnancy for 398 men born between 1934 and 1944.
The men’s thinking abilities were tested at age 20 and then again at an average age of 69. The tests measured language skills, math reasoning, and visual and spatial relationships.
The study found that men whose mothers had high blood pressure while pregnant scored 4.36 points lower on these tests at age 69 compared to men whose mothers did not have high blood pressure.
The group also scored lower at the age of 20 and had a greater decline in their scores over the years than those whose mothers did not have problems with blood pressure.
The finding was strongest for math-related reasoning, according to the researchers.
The study was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Source: American Academy of Neurology