Women who had pre-eclampsia or gestational hypertension during pregnancy may be more likely to develop coronary heart disease in the future.
Women who suffer from certain complications during pregnancy may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease later in life. A new study has revealed that narrowing and calcification of the heart’s blood vessels (atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries) is more common in women with a history of pregnancy complications. Hardening and narrowing of the arteries can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The study, led by researchers at Lund University in Sweden, found that the correlation between pregnancy complications and heart disease exists even among women with an expected low risk of cardiovascular disease.
Simon Timpka, who led the Lund University research team, noted that their findings could help to understand how women with pregnancy complications should be followed up by their doctor after pregnancy.
5 pregnancy complications linked to heart disease
In the study, more than 10,500 women underwent coronary computed tomography angiography (computed tomography of the coronary arteries) to detect blood vessel calcification, narrowing and other signs of heart disease. They were between 50 and 65 years old.
The researchers also studied their history of pregnancy complications, particularly pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure during pregnancy (gestational hypertension), premature birth, gestational diabetes, and babies born small for gestational age.
More women with pregnancy complications (32 percent) had visible atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries than those who had no pregnancy complications (28 percent).
Women who had pre-eclampsia or gestational hypertension had the highest risk of developing atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries.
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Women with a history of pregnancy complications should monitor their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol regularly to reduce their risk of developing coronary heart disease in the future, suggested Sofia Sederholm Lawesson, one of the study’s co-authors.
Preeclampsia and gestational hypertension
Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, high levels of protein in the urine (proteinuria), or other signs of kidney problems. Sudden weight gain and swelling of the face and hands (edema) are also possible signs of preeclampsia, which usually starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Untreated preeclampsia can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby, and even death.
Gestational hypertension is when you have high blood pressure during pregnancy without kidney or other organ problems. This condition is often diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy or close to delivery. Some pregnant women with gestational hypertension may also develop preeclampsia.
Gestational hypertension usually disappears after delivery. But some women with a history of gestational hypertension may develop chronic hypertension in the future.
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