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High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Later-Life Health Issues
February 14, 2013
Published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation is a study that says women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy have greater incidence of poor health outcomes later in life, including heart disease, risk of heart attack, chronic kidney or liver disease, and diabetes.
Scientists, led by Dr. Tuija Mannisto, found that even one high blood pressure reading during pregnancy increased the woman’s risk of heart attack or other health complications later in life. The study sample consisted of more than 12,000 Finnish women who were first surveyed in 1966 then followed over the course of 40 years. One-third of the women who had reported one or more high blood pressure readings during pregnancy were found to have 14-100% greater risk of developing heart disease, were 2 to 5 times more likely to die from heart attack, were as much as 2.2 times more likely to develop diabetes, and as much as 2.8 times more likely to develop kidney disease later in life than those who maintained normal blood pressure. In addition, Women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy, but normal blood pressure after pregnancy had as much as 2.5 times the risk of requiring blood pressuring stabilizing medications and hospitalization to control their blood pressure.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in women. Having high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to pre-eclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication which causes protein in the urine, swelling, and can cause kidney or liver failure. High blood pressure also affects the fetus by causing low birth weight, pre-term labor and premature delivery, and severe delivery complications like placental abruption.
Particularly for moms-to-be and those trying to conceive, maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI), healthy diet and exercise, and living a health lifestyle is important to reduce the risks of health complications later. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fertility patients with PCOS should be monitored for cardiovascular and endocrine health.
Further research building upon this study's discovery is required to determine which lifestyle factors should be adjusted before, during, and after pregnancy to promote better long-term health outcomes.