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Women who experience pregnancy-related complications like gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life, says the American Heart Association (AHA). The organisation called for vigorous prevention of these risk factors and continued follow-ups to monitor cardiovascular disease risk in these women throughout their life.
The AHA’s new scientific statement published in its flagship journal Circulation says these complications include: high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, small-for-gestational-age delivery, pregnancy loss or placental abruption. According to the AHA, about 10%-15% of pregnant women experience adverse outcomes, and Black, Asian and Hispanic women are at a higher risk compared to White women. It, however, said that more research is needed to address these disparities.
“Pregnancy and the postpartum period should be considered the “golden year” of opportunity for clinicians to identify young women at risk and work with them to improve their cardiovascular health futures,” said Eliza C. Miller, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of neurology, Columbia University, in a statement.
Nisha I. Parikh, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the scientific statement writing committee and associate professor of medicine, University of California at San Francisco, said that adverse pregnancy outcomes are linked to hypertension, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol and cardiovascular disease events like heart attack and stroke later in life. “Preventing or treating risk factors early can prevent cardiovascular disease, therefore, adverse pregnancy outcomes can be a powerful window into cardiovascular disease prevention if women and their health care professionals harness the knowledge and use it for health improvement,” she said.
“Preventing or treating risk factors early can prevent cardiovascular disease, therefore, adverse pregnancy outcomes can be a powerful window into cardiovascular disease prevention if women and their health care professionals harness the knowledge and use it for health improvement”
The AHA recommended that a heart healthy diet improves cardiovascular health; a healthy eating pattern three years prior to pregnancy can help lower risks of complications. It also said breastfeeding may mitigate the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. “Adopting a heart healthy diet, healthy sleep patterns and increasing physical activity among women experiencing adverse pregnancy outcomes, should start during pregnancy and continue in post-partum and through the rest of the patient’s lifespan. These are important lifestyle interventions to decrease CVD risk,” said Parikh.
The AHA also expanded on the risk related to each complication. High blood pressure during pregnancy or gestational hypertension, it said, increased the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life by 67%. It also increased the likelihood of stroke by 83%.
High blood pressure during pregnancy or gestational hypertension increased the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life by 67%. It also increased the likelihood of a stroke by 83%.
Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy with signs of liver or kidney damage) nearly tripled the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. Meanwhile preterm delivery doubled the risk. The AHA also said that placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus before childbirth) increased a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 82%, while stillbirth doubled the risk.