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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Your Pregnancy Can Predict Your Future Heart Health

Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) affects more than one in 12 pregnant women, and new statistics suggests that as many as one in seven may develop gestational diabetes. While these problems arise during pregnancy and generally resolve after delivery, they are powerful markers for a woman’s risk of heart disease later in life.

As part of Bristol University’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, based in the UK, 3416 moms were evaluated during their pregnancies and then followed up 18 years after giving birth. The researchers were interested in finding out whether PIH (including preeclampsia, a more complicated for of PIH) and gestational diabetes might predict future health risks.

At the 18 year mark, the moms’ average age was 48. Their risk factors were plugged into the Framingham Risk Score, a simple but highly predictive tool that calculates your ten year risk of heart disease based on age, gender, blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking status.

For those who had been diagnosed with PIH or gestational diabetes 18 years earlier, the calculated risk for heart disease was nearly 30 percent higher than for women who had not experienced these complications. Not surprisingly, women who had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes were more likely to go on to develop diabetes or pre-diabetes, while those with PIH tended to have higher blood pressure, larger waist size, and poor cholesterol readings.

Blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol numbers can be easily checked and, when needed, treated. Yet all of these conditions can often be prevented with a heart smart diet and regular exercise. If your pregnancies were complicated by PIH or gestational diabetes, it makes sense to be extra vigilant about your risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

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Tags: Women and Heart Health

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.