Some Pregnancy Complications Signal Seven-fold Increase in Risk of Heart Disease Death
September 22, 2015
Pregnancy Events Reveal Cardiovascular Risk
Some Complications Signal Seven-fold Increase in Risk of Heart Disease Death
Women who experience complications during pregnancy may be at greater risk of dying from heart disease later in life than women with uncomplicated pregnancies, according to new research from the Public Health Institute, published yesterday in the American Heart Association’s journalCirculation.
Researchers found that some combinations of pregnancy complications were associated with as much as a seven-fold increase in risk of cardiovascular disease death overall. Other complications were associated with a four- to five-fold higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease early, before the age of 60.
“Pregnancy is really a stress test for the cardiovascular system,” said senior study author Barbara A. Cohn, PhD, of the Public Health Institute’s Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) in Berkeley, CA. “And it can be used to identify women at highest risk for cardiovascular disease death so they can receive earlier and more intensive preventive care.”
This large, longitudinal study, which followed women for half a century, confirmed several pregnancy complications associated with cardiovascular disease reported in other studies (pre-eclampsia, pre-term delivery and small-for-gestational-age delivery) but also uncovered new risks, finding that cardiovascular death risk increased significantly for combinations of some pregnancy events. It also found that pre-eclampsia in early pregnancy strongly predicts premature death from cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of American women. According to the American Heart Association, 399,503 women died of cardiovascular disease in 2013.
Taking a comprehensive pregnancy history is a low-cost intervention that can make the incredible advances in cardiovascular disease medicine accessible to higher risk women of all ages,” Cohn said. “These risk factors should lead doctors to discuss with these women ways to reduce their risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases. By asking women about pregnancy history, doctors might be able to save lives."
The study has already been featured in multiple news outlets, including KQED, CBS, and Live Science.