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Published October 15, 2012, 11:30 PM

Hot Topics: Mom’s blood pressure may affect baby’s IQ

Hypertension isn’t just risky for a pregnant woman, it can have lasting consequences for a child’s cognitive ability, a new study suggests.

By: Source: “The Chart” blog on CNN.com, INFORUM

Hypertension isn’t just risky for a pregnant woman, it can have lasting consequences for a child’s cognitive ability, a new study suggests.

A Finnish study found that men whose mothers’ pregnancies had complications from hypertensive disorders scored lower on tests of cognitive ability than those whose mothers did not have high blood pressure during pregnancy. The study appears in the journal Neurology.

About 10 percent of all pregnancies become complicated by hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia, the study said. Such conditions are linked to premature births and small baby body size, factors that are also linked with lower cognitive ability.

Researchers identified 398 men who had taken a basic ability test for the Finnish Defense Forces twice: around age 20 and again around age 69. In this way, study authors were able to look at verbal, arithmetic and visuospatial reasoning scores. Visuospatial means understanding visual representations and their spatial relationships.

Information about the mothers’ blood pressure and urinary protein were used to determine which pregnancies were complicated by hypertension.

The study authors had previously shown that men whose mothers had hypertension-complicated pregnancies tended to score lower around the 20-year mark than men whose mothers did not.

Men whose mothers had a hypertensive disorder during pregnancy had worse scores on arithmetic reasoning and total cognitive ability in both young adulthood and old age. This suggests that “a propensity toward lower cognitive ability has its origins in the prenatal period, when the majority of the development of brain structure and function occurs,” the study said.

Associations with decline were strongest in math reasoning scores. Men’s test scores were on average 4.36 points lower on total thinking ability in old age, and 2.88 points lower at age 20.

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