High altitude linked to developmental delays


A recent study has revealed that infants and toddlers living at high altitudes in South America were more likely to score poorly on early tests of brain development, Of the 2,000 kids tested between three months and two years of age, 20% were at high risk for developmental delays. When you isolated the kids living at or above 8,530 feet, the number rose to a third of the children.

Less oxygen could be a factor

It is believed that less oxygen at higher elevations could impact blood flow in the uterus affecting development of the brain. “The findings emphasize the need for health care providers and policy-makers to recognize that altitude may increase developmental risks not just for physical growth, as has been reported, but for neurologic and cognitive development,” stated George Wehby from the University of Iowa in Iowa city, who conducted the research. Wehby found that for every 328 foot increase in elevation, children were 2% more likely to be judged at high risk of future developmental delays.

US could be impacted too

When looking at high elevation cities in the US which could be as vulnerable, the largest cities include Albuquerque and Denver. There are broad areas of California, Colorado Nevada and Utah which are over 10,000 feet.

The relationship may not be causal

“We’re starting to realize there’s such a complicated social context within which these populations live that it’s very hard to look at one area and try to generalize to other areas,” said Alexis Handel, an epidemiologist from the University of New Mexico.

Source: Reuters, The Journal of Pediatrics


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