Pregnancy Complications May Indicate Cardiovascular Disease in Future

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Pregnancy Complications A new study published in the journal Circulation suggests that pregnancy complications could be a sign of heart disease to come later in life.

When a woman is pregnant, high blood pressure is classified as pre-existing chronic hypertension (when blood pressure is above 140.90 within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy) or gestational hypertension (pregnancy-induced hypertension), which is diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Both can lead to preeclampsia—a severe condition that is characterized by high blood pressure; it typically occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

For the study, researchers at the Public Health Institute’s Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) enrolled 15,528 women between the years 1959 and 1967. Researchers followed up with the participants on a regular basis. By 2010, 368 of these women, with an average age of 66, had died of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The researchers found a link between their cause of death and complications during pregnancy.

Complications that increased the risk of death from CVD in women who had pre-existing hypertension included:

  • Preterm delivery (increased the risk by five times)
  • Preeclampsia (increased the risk by about 5.6 times)
  • Delivery of a preterm baby (increased the risk by 7.1 times)
  • Small for gestational age (SGA) delivery, i.e. an infant who is smaller in size than normal (increased the risk by about 4.8 times)

Researchers established two new conditions that can also indicate future heart disease: glycosuria (high levels of sugar in the urine) increased the risk by 4.2 times, and hemoglobin (the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen is reduced) increased the risk by 1.7 times.

Furthermore, the research team discovered that only African-American women, who represented 22% of the group, experienced both CVD and gestational high blood pressure—and those who developed it were 1.7 times more likely to die from CVD. In comparison, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic women who experienced gestational hypertension showed no increased risk of CVD.

According to the study’s lead author Barbara A. Cohn: “One of the wonderful things about cardiovascular medicine is the enormous progress that has been made in preventing death in men and women. These pregnancy complications are early warning signs that tell you to pay attention to risk factors that you can control.”

Source for Today’s Article:
“Pregnancy complications may signal later risk of heart disease death,” American Heart Association web site, September 21, 2015;
Brazier, Y., “Pregnancy complications may raise risk of death from heart disease later in life,” Medical News Today web site, September 22, 2015;