Children with cerebral palsy are more likely than others to develop cardiovascular disease in adulthood, a study reports.
The study, “Cardiovascular disease and related risk factors in adults with cerebral palsy: a systematic review,” was published in the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.
Because cerebral palsy starts in childhood, most published research focuses on disease symptoms and complications in the young.
But, with patients living longer, researchers have started to focus on the impact that cerebral palsy has later on in life.
As cerebral palsy is a movement disorder, studies have shown that patients, as early as preschool-age, demonstrate more sedentary behavior and reduced physical activity — a problem that continues to worsen throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
For this reason, it is conceivable that reduced movement (which is associated with obesity) in cerebral palsy patients can have implications for cardiovascular health.
The prevalence of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and their associated risk factors are also known to be higher in populations with particular physiological characteristics that are also prevalent in cerebral palsy patients.
Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario conducted a systematic review, across multiple research databases, to evaluate the best available data regarding the prevalence of CVD, its risk factors, and CVD-related mortality among adults with cerebral palsy.
Nineteen studies that covered cerebral palsy patients ages 18 or older met the inclusion criteria.
Only one study reported directly on the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in these patients, showing that a greater proportion of adults with cerebral palsy had CVD conditions (15.1%) than adults without cerebral palsy (9.1%).
The most commonly reported CVD risk factor in adults with cerebral palsy was being overweight or obese. This was found in 12 of the 19 studies, while less common risk factors included hypertension (high blood pressure) and smoking.
Five studies reported data on CVD-related mortality in cerebral palsy adult patients, and found that CVD-related and circulatory system-related deaths were more frequent and more common at a younger age in these adults than in the general population.
“The prevalence of CVD and the risk of death because of CVD in this population seems increased, though the knowledge base is fragmented by studies that are small in size and geographically isolated,” researchers wrote, adding that clinical scientists and healthcare professionals should not be bothered by the lack of evidence in this population.
“[I]t is critical to monitor and treat common risk factors to prevent the development of CVD in adults with CP [cerebral palsy],” such as overweight/obesity and hypertension, both modifiable and treatable factors,” they said.
“Clinicians should incorporate a holistic approach to monitor and treat these risk factors, by asking patients with CP about other variables of physical health in addition to physical activity, such as sleep and nutrition,” the study concluded.