Young adults who were born premature have increased risk of health problems according to research from the Imperial College London, published in the journal Pediatric Research on Wednesday.

Researchers confirm that work is needed to continually monitor preterm babies into adulthood to quickly detect early signs of disease.

A study of 48 volunteers aged 19-27 found those who were born at 33 weeks of gestation or less had traits linked to heart and circulatory disease and type II diabetes such as higher blood pressure, more fat tissue despite having a normal body mass index (BMI), more fat in their liver and muscles.

“The results suggest that we need to monitor the health of premature babies beyond infancy and childhood,” said Professor Neena Modi, lead investigator in the study.

“Preterm men and women might be at greater risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases but if we look out for the warning signs, we can help them to stay healthy with lifestyle interventions, and treatment where appropriate,” he added.

Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques found that adults who were born preterm had more fat tissue around their abdomens and in their muscle and liver. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy techniques found different chemical make up in their urine, with subject producing more metabolites liked with inflammation linked to higher blood pressure and more fat.

Volunteers came from BLISS, a national UK premature and sick baby charity.

What are Preterm babies?

According to the National Institutes of Health, babies are born before 34 weeks of gestation hover around 2 percent of all births. Preterm babies due to lack of organ development are at a higher risk for intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, breathing problems, vision and hearing loss and digestive problems. Preterm babies require special care and hospitalization.