Lingering heart risks

People born with heart defects have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as adults and should be monitored more carefully than previously thought, according to an analysis by Stanford Medicine researchers.

About 1% of infants have heart defects, including a hole or a faulty valve. Many live into adulthood, sometimes unaware of their conditions.

Researchers examined data from the U.K. Biobank, which includes health information on 500,000 British residents. More than 2,000 people in the database had mild congenital heart defects.

The analysis showed they were 13 times as likely to develop heart failure or atrial fibrillation, five times as likely to have a stroke, and twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than people born without heart defects.

“All of us in cardiology recognize that people with complex disease need follow-up care throughout their lives,” said James Priest, MD, assistant professor of pediatric cardiology and senior author of the analysis published Feb. 28 in Circulation. But the findings show that even people with mild defects need lifetime monitoring so preventive measures can be taken.