(HealthDay News) – Sudden cardiac death in adults is associated with placental size at birth, with a significantly increased risk of death for decreased placental thickness, according to a study published online Sept 19 in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Using data from the Helsinki Birth Cohort for 13,345 men and women, David J.P. Barker, MD, PhD, from the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, and colleagues investigated the hypothesis that placental size correlates with sudden cardiac death.

A total of 2.7% of men and 0.7% of women experienced sudden cardiac death outside of the hospital. The researchers found that there was a correlation between sudden death and thin placenta, with a hazard ratio of 1.47 for each g/cm² decrease in thickness. There was an independent correlation between sudden death and poor educational attainment. These correlations were independent of socioeconomic status later in life.

“We suggest that sudden death is initiated by impaired development of the autonomic nervous system in utero as a result of shallow invasion of the spiral arteries in the maternal endometrium and consequent fetal malnutrition,” the authors write.

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