Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Being born with a heart defect can put a major burden on a person as they reach adulthood, a study says.
A baby with a heart defect is 13 times more likely to develop heart failure or atrial fibrillation as it ages, even while living a heart-healthy lifestyle, according to a study published Thursday in Circulation.
They also have five times the risk of having a stroke and twice the risk of having a heart attack than a baby born without a defect, researchers report.
"All of us in cardiology recognize that people with the complex disease need follow-up care throughout their lives," James Priest, a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine and study author, said in a news release. "But for the simple problems, we've been thinking that once you close the hole or fix the valve, these patients are good to go."
About one percent of babies in the United States are born with a congenital heart defect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the researchers see the link between heart defects and heart conditions later in life, they don't understand why.
"Is it the surgery? Could it be the medications? Or is it something intrinsic to having congenital heart disease? We don't know," Priest said, adding, "We don't know why infants have congenital heart disease to begin with."
If, however, adults born with congenital heart defects can control blood pressure, obesity and other risk factors for heart disease, they will have a 33 percent lower chance of developing heart conditions than other heart defect survivors.
Now, the researchers want to further examine the connection between congenital heart defects and heart conditions to develop better strategies for patient follow-up care.
"That's something that can change right now," said Priyanka Saha, a former researcher at Stanford University and study lead author. "We can start connecting them with cardiology specialists."