High blood pressure during pregnancy can increase risk of heart disease in women

Gestational hypertension massively increases the risk of heart disease in women later on in life, according to this research.
pregnancy weight gain
Get yourself tested foImage courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 13 Oct 2023, 16:44 pm IST
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A lot has been said and done about how pregnancy is perhaps the most beautiful time of a woman’s life. While, pregnancy is truly a wonderful experience—it is also wrought with physical discomfort and ailments for moms-to-be. Gestational diabetes and hypertension, for instance, become legit risks during these nine months.

And now if a study is to be believed, women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to develop heart disease and heart failure in later life.

What is gestational hypertension?
Also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension or high blood pressure during pregnancy generally happens in the second of half of the gestation period. And now clinicians are suggesting that women with gestational hypertension are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease later on.

maternal immunity
High BP is not good for you and your baby. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

To examine these links further, an international team of researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 studies involving a total of 3.6 million women, 1,28,000 of who previously had gestational hypertension. The findings of the study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The researchers found that women who experienced high blood pressure during their first pregnancy were at 45% higher risk of overall cardiovascular disease and 46% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared to women who did not have high blood pressure in pregnancy.

But what about women with more than one pregnancy?
Women with one or more pregnancies affected by high blood pressure were at 81% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, 83% higher risk of coronary heart disease and 77% higher risk of heart failure.

“When we looked at all the available research, the answer was clear: women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy—even when it doesn’t develop into pre-eclampsia—are more likely to develop several different kinds of cardiovascular disease,” said senior author Dr Clare Oliver-Williams from the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge.

But why does this happen?
Unfortunately, the researchers say it is not entirely clear why gestational hypertension is associated with heart disease in later life. However, they do suggest that this might be because high blood pressure in pregnancy causes lasting damage that contributes to cardiovascular disease.

high blood pressure
Beware! The aldosterone hormone might be causing your BP to shoot up. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Alternatively, women who develop gestational hypertension may have a pre-existing susceptibility to cardiovascular disease that is revealed due to the large demands that pregnancy places upon women’s bodies.

Dr Oliver-Williams said: “It is important that women know that it is not their fault that they developed high blood pressure in pregnancy and developing heart disease is not a foregone conclusion. Women who have experienced gestational hypertension may have been dealt a tough hand, but it is how they play those cards that matters the most.”

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“Small positive changes can really help. They can be as simple as eating more fruit and vegetables, small bouts of regular exercise and finding time to unwind, if that is possible with kids around,” Dr Williams added.

(With inputs from ANI)

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