MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Certain complications during
pregnancy appear to raise the mother's risk of cardiovascular
disease during middle age, a new study has found.
Women with high blood pressure in pregnancy, known as
preeclampsia, or pregnancy-related diabetes were more likely to
have cardiovascular disease risk factors at around 50, the British
researchers found. The risk was greater with preeclampsia.
"For women, this study suggests that if they have experienced any of the pregnancy complications [evaluated], they may consider seeking advice regarding effective interventions and lifestyle changes in order to modify their CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk," said study leader Abigail Fraser, a research fellow at the University of Bristol School of Social and Community Medicine.
For women not yet pregnant, maintaining a healthy weight before
getting pregnant may help them avoid the problems, Fraser said.
Moms-to-be with preeclampsia were 31 percent more likely to have
risk factors for heart disease at around age 50 than those who had
normal blood pressure during pregnancy. They tended to be heavier
and have higher blood pressure and irregular blood sugar control
than women with a healthy pregnancy.
Women who developed diabetes in pregnancy, called gestational
diabetes, were 26 percent more likely to have heart-disease risk
factors, particularly abnormally high blood sugar levels.
For the study, published Feb. 20 in the journal
Circulation, the researchers looked at the pregnancies of more than 3,400 women enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the early 1990s.
Nearly 30 percent had one complication, and about 5 percent had
two. Besides high blood pressure and diabetes, the researchers were
interested in whether preterm delivery and babies born small or
large for gestational age affected heart disease risk later.
After 18 years, they reassessed the women, who then averaged 48
years old. They used the Framingham prediction score, a respected
measure, to evaluate their risk of getting cardiovascular disease
in the next 10 years.
Giving birth to babies large for gestational age was linked with
higher blood sugar and wider waists. Giving birth to babies small
for gestational age and delivering before term was linked with
higher blood pressure.
The findings make sense to Marie Frazzitta, a nurse practitioner
and coordinator of the North Shore University Hospital's Center for
Diabetes in Pregnancy, Manhasset, N.Y.
"Pregnancy is like a stress test that can identify what chronic conditions a woman may be susceptible to later in life," she explained.
Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York
City, agreed. "Pregnancy may be a unique point in time where
physicians get a window into a woman's future risk for
cardiovascular disease," she said. Factors such as preterm delivery
and baby's size may help predict a woman's long term risk of
developing cardiovascular disease or risk factors, she said.
"If physicians can use the information gained during pregnancy to appropriately manage a woman's risk, we may be able to limit the number of deaths caused by CVD, the number one killer of American women," Narula said.
She said the study provides good information, but is limited in
that "the follow-up occurred at an age in women (younger than 50)
when CVD events are low in general."
The study, which builds on previous research, was funded by the
U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Disease, the British Heart Association and Wellcome Trust.
To learn more about
heart disease risk, go to the American Heart Association.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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