Clinicians should ask patients about their perinatal history to identify those who were born prematurely, an event that has been associated with a number of adverse health conditions, according to a review published online ahead of print December 7 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The survival of infants born before 37 weeks’ gestation has become commonplace in the last 3 to 4 decades due to advances in health care, according to lead author Thuy Mai Luu, MD, MSc. Preterm birth has been associated with an increased risk of premature death, hypertension and heart anomalies associated with heart failure, and diabetes, including gestational diabetes. In addition, impaired respiratory function and suboptimal bone mass that can lead to osteoporosis and fractures have also been linked to preterm birth. 

“By identifying patients who were born prematurely, we can take steps to prevent and manage chronic diseases for which they may be at risk to help prevent early death and allow a patient to live a longer, healthier life,” Dr. Luu said. 

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Dr. Luu and colleagues recommended the following in caring for adults born preterm: 

  • Measure blood pressure regularly to help manage risk of early heart disease, including monitoring pregnant women who were born preterm. 

  • Include pulmonary function testing for those who have long-term respiratory issues. 

  • Encourage calcium-rich diets and weight-bearing exercises to prevent osteoporosis.