Blood Pressure, Pregnancy

And Heart Disease Risk

Women who suffer from high blood pressure during pregnancy may have an increased long-term risk of developing heart disease, researchers are warning.

Although their blood pressure returns to normal after the birth, they are more likely than other women to have a heart attack or stroke 20, 30 or 40 years later.

"Women who have raised blood pressure during pregnancy have a two to three times increased risk of developing hypertension in later life," said Cairns Smith of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. "They also have about three times the risk of having a stroke and just under twice the risk of having heart disease."

About 10 percent of pregnancies are complicated by raised blood pressure.

He and his colleagues discovered the link by studying women who had lived in Aberdeen between 1951 and 1970 during their first pregnancies. Their research is reported in the British Medical Journal.

Danger of Lead to Children

May Have Been Understated

Lead may impair children's intelligence at far lower levels of exposure than those in current federal health guidelines, meaning that potentially millions more U.S. children than previously thought have lost a few IQ points by ingesting contaminated dust.

Not only do small amounts of the toxic metal lower a child's intelligence, but each additional unit of lead has a relatively more dramatic effect than at higher levels of exposure, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, an increase from 1 to 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood was associated with a 7.4-point drop in IQ. An additional 20 micrograms of lead above that had a much smaller added effect -- about 2.5 IQ points.

The study is expected to guide an advisory committee of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as it decides whether to recommend a change in policy.

An estimated 434,000 children younger than 6 currently have blood-lead levels above the federal guideline.

Noise May Retard Speech,

Language Development

The high noise of modern life may affect speech and language development in the very young, according to a study that found the auditory parts of the brains of young mice are slower to organize properly in the presence of continuous sounds.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco raised rats in an environment of continuous background noise and found that their brain circuits that receive and interpret sound did not develop at the same rate as those of animals raised in a quieter environment.

Edward F. Chang and Michael Merzenich, co-authors of the study in the journal Science, said that the continuous noise delayed the organization of auditory neurons during a critical two- to three-week period after the rats were born.

-- From News Services