Medical conditions such as hypertension and preeclampsia are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A Harvard medical study now sheds light on the long-term consequences for women with disabilities.
Dr. Jennifer Stuart and her team researched how hypertensive disorders in pregnancy (HSE) associated with a long-term risk of cardiovascular disease (cardiovascular disease) and other risk factors. HSEs are diseases whose main symptom is high blood pressure – these include pregnancy hypertension and preeclampsia.
The researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study II for their study. Since 1989, some 116,000 nurses have participated in this long-term study, providing important health data over the decades – including pregnancy and cardiovascular disease.
Heart health after gestational hypertension and preeclampsia
The research team analyzed data from a total of 60,379 nurses who could rule out cardiovascular disease and chronic high blood pressure before their first pregnancy. The evaluated data ranged from 1989 to 2017.
HSEs significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in old age
One in ten study participants developed HSE during the first pregnancy (6.4% preeclampsia, 3% gestational hypertension). Women who were obese (BMI> = 30) before the first pregnancy had a 3-fold higher risk of HSE. Approximately 30 years later, 1.8% of all participants experienced a cardiovascular event (eg stroke, heart attack).
After preeclampsia in the first pregnancy, the risk of heart attack increases in the long run. While gestational hypertension in the first pregnancy predominantly increased the risk of stroke.
Women with HSE in their first pregnancy had a 63% higher long-term risk of cardiovascular disease compared with women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy. Nearly two-thirds of this increased risk of cardiovascular disease can be attributed to the fact that those affected developed chronic high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetes or were overweight in the years after birth.
Prevention after pregnancy hypertension or preeclampsia is especially important
The authors of the study read from their results that women after HSE should be examined for cardiovascular risk factors (chronic high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetes, overweight, obesity) and treated. In this way, cardiovascular diseases can be delayed in old age or even prevented.
Source: Jennifer J. Stuart et al, Cardiovascular risk factors mediate the long-term maternal risk associated with hypertensive pregnancy disorders, Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.jacc.2022.03.335