Pregnancy Complications Can Predict Heart Disease

Preeclampsia or gestational diabetes may increase later life cardiovascular disease risk

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(RxWiki News) Pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia may not just put your health at risk in the short term. Such pregnancy disorders also may affect your risk of heart disease later in life.

Researchers have suggested pregnancy may be a way to aid doctors in identifying young women who may be at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.

"Talk to your obstetrician about heart risk after pregnancy complications."

Abigail Fraser, a researcher from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, said the knowledge also would be useful to doctors so that they recommend lifestyle changes and ensure medical interventions are received sooner.

During the study investigators followed 3,416 mostly Caucasion pregnant women enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the early 1990s. Nearly 30 percent of the women had one pregnancy-related complication, while 5 percent had two complications and less than 1 percent had three.

Those complications included preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder that occurs during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, premature delivery, and newborn weight that was in the top or bottom 10 percent.

Researchers used these complications to correlate them to cardiovascular disease risk factors measured 18 years later when the women were an average age of 48. Their heart risk was then calculated for the next decade using the 10-year cardiovascular disease Framingham risk score, which considers factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, age, diabetes and smoking status.

They discovered that preeclampsia was associated with a 31 percent greater risk of developing heart disease in middle age, as compared to a 26 percent increased risk for women suffering from gestational diabetes.

The women had not yet experienced a heart event, however, so it could not be determined whether preeclampsia or gestational diabetes have separate independent effects on developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

The study was funded by the British Heart Association, Wellcome Trust and United States National Institute of Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It was recently published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Last Updated:
February 20, 2012