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Researchers look to earliest years of life for heart disease clues

The Menzies Institute for Medical Research wants to reconnect with young adults who took part in a study as infants.

Health data collected from babies almost 30 years ago will be the foundation of a new research project that will compare the early life environment with cardiovascular health later in life.

The study is being conducted by the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research and will investigate how factors in gestation or infancy predict cardiovascular health for the same person in adulthood.

The study involves a journey back to Menzies’ earliest days in 1988, when, as the Menzies Centre for Population Health Research, it conducted ground-breaking research that showed a link between babies’ sleeping position and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

That study was called the Tasmanian Infant Health Survey, and involved a cohort of 10,000 babies. With parental consent, data was collected from mothers and their babies on the early life environment. Researchers would now like to return to as many of this group as possible to compare their early life environment with their heart health today as young adults.

A Chief Investigator on the new study, Dr Seana Gall, said it would provide a unique insight into cardiovascular health across the life course for Tasmanians, with cardiovascular diseases being responsible for most deaths in Tasmania. 

We are aiming for a better understanding of the environmental factors that have an impact on cardiovascular health right across the life course, Dr Gall said. To do this we need to conduct studies that run over many years because the causes of heart disease are varied and complex.

Dr Seana Gall said the project would provide a unique insight into cardiovascular health across the life course for Tasmanians.

“A particular challenge for us is tracking down people who were in the study as babies almost three decades ago. We’ve been lucky enough to have around 500 or so involved in a study of bone development over the years but we’re now looking for the rest of the original participants. 

So if you were the mother of a baby or know you were one of the babies in the Tasmanian Infant Health Survey in 1988 or 1989, we would love to hear from you.

Participants in the new study will be asked to attend the clinic at the Medical Science Precinct for a range of standard tests that assess cardiovascular health.

Do you think you were part of the Tasmanian Infant Health Survey in 1988 or 1989? If so Menzies would love to hear from you. Please contact Menzies on (03) 6226 2710 or by visiting 

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