High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy Flags Heart Risk

Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013 10:32 AM

By Nick Tate

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Pregnant women who develop high blood pressure face higher risk of developing heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes later in life, new research shows.

The findings, detailed in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, suggest healthcare providers need to more closely monitor such women after they give birth for cardiovascular risk factors and be prepared to treat heart issues.

Even one or two measurements of high blood pressure during routine prenatal care can signal substantially higher risks for the chronic diseases later on, said lead researcher Tuija Männistö, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Rockville, Md.

"All of the later life risks were similar in pregnant women who could otherwise be considered low-risk — those who were young, normal weight, non-smokers, with no diabetes during pregnancy," said Dr. Männistö.

For the study, researchers examined 40 years of medical records of Finnish women who had babies in 1966. They identified those who had high blood pressure in pregnancy then calculated the risk of diabetes, heart, or kidney disease in later life, compared to women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy.

The results showed:
  • A third of the women had at least one high blood pressure measurement during pregnancy.

  • Women with high blood pressure had up to double the risk of cardiovascular diseases later in life, compared to those with normal blood pressure during pregnancy. They were also up to five times more likely to die from heart attacks.

  • Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy had up to a 2.5-fold higher risk of having hypertension requiring medication or hospitalization later in life, up to a 2.2-fold higher risk of developing diabetes, and up to a 2.8-fold higher risk of kidney disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure during pregnancy.
"According to our findings, women who have had high blood pressure during pregnancy or who are diagnosed with high blood pressure in pregnancy for the first time might benefit from comprehensive heart disease risk factor checks by their physicians, to decrease their long-term risk of heart diseases," Dr. Männistö said.

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