Taking aspirin may help protect some women who have an increased risk of cardiovascular events due to preeclampsia.

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Preeclampsia is a condition that can develop during pregnancy and can lead to serious complications like seizures. Getty Images

Preeclampsia is a condition that can affect pregnant women, causing high blood pressure that increases the risk of major cardiac events, seizures or even death.

Now experts think they may have another tool in stopping the dangerous complications related to this condition: aspirin.

Preeclampsia can increase the risk of a variety of health conditions. In the short term, it can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as eclampsia, where high blood pressure results in seizures. It can also restrict the growth of a fetus and raise the risk of preterm delivery.

Even after having a baby, women who’ve had preeclampsia are more likely to have cardiovascular issues, including serious events like heart attack or stroke later in life.

Now, new research published this month in the journal Neurology suggests women with a history of preeclampsia might lower their stroke risk by taking regular doses of aspirin.

The authors of the study found tha women under the age of 60 with a history of preeclampsia were less likely to have a stroke if they were regular aspirin users.

A woman was considered a regular aspirin user if she reported taking aspirin at least three times a week, for at least one year following childbirth.

The authors of this study assessed data collected from 84,000 women enrolled in the California Teachers Study. Approximately 4,000 of those women had a history of preeclampsia.

Among women under the age of 60, those with a history of preeclampsia who were regular aspirin users had the same risk of stroke as women who never had preeclampsia.

In comparison, the risk of stroke was 50 percent higher for women with a history of preeclampsia who weren’t regular aspirin users.

This study adds to a growing body of research on the potential benefits of aspirin for reducing the risk of preeclampsia and related health conditions.

Past studies have found that taking low doses of aspirin can help lower the risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women who are high risk of developing it.

“It’s been introduced that in certain high-risk pregnancies, women need to take low-dose aspirin [to help prevent preeclampsia],” Dr. Mary Rosser, director of Integrated Women’s Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told Healthline.

“But they usually stop right after pregnancy or at the end of pregnancy with delivery,” she continued, “so this study is interesting, in that it’s the first of its kind to start looking at what we can do for prevention on down the road.”

Although the results of this study are promising, more research is needed.

“It’s important to keep in mind that this is an observational study,” Rosser said, “so we still need to do randomized control trials to evaluate this topic.”

Preeclampsia is on the rise in the United States, where it affects an estimated one in 25 pregnancies.

It helps account for the high rate of maternal mortality in this country. It also contributes to heart attack and stroke, which are leading causes of death and disability among women.

“We now have lots of data showing that pregnancy is nature’s stress test, and tells us about the risk of heart disease and stroke in the future for women,” Dr. Martha Gulati, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, told Healthline.

Gulati pointed out that any rise in blood pressure increases a woman’s risk for a variety of issues.

“Any hypertension during pregnancy increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, development of diabetes, and even development of chronic kidney disease,” she said.

In general, health issues that arise during pregnancy can be a warning of future complications.

Women who develop gestational diabetes while pregnant are also more likely to develop heart disease and stroke in later life.

Miscarriage, preterm delivery, and giving birth to a baby that’s small for its age have also been linked to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.

Despite these connections between pregnancy-related conditions and heart health, many of the tools that are used to calculate a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease don’t take these complications into account.

To help prevent preeclampsia, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal–Fetal Medicine encourage pregnant women who are at high risk of the condition to take 81 milligrams of aspirin per day, starting at 12 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Pregnant women who are moderate risk of developing preeclampsia may also benefit from taking low doses of aspirin.

If you’ve had preeclampsia or other pregnancy-related complications, Gulati encourages you to talk to your doctor about the effects it might have on your risk of heart disease and stroke.

“Make sure not just your [obstetrician] knows your pregnancy history, but your primary care physician too,” she said. “Consider seeing a preventive cardiologist or a cardiologist who specializes in women to have your risk assessed and a discussion of what you can do.”

“Over 80 percent of heart disease is preventable, and the earlier you start working toward prevention, the better,” she continued. “But because these issues often resolve and disappear after the birth, the conversation usually stops after delivery.”

To help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, your doctor will likely encourage you to practice healthy lifestyle habits.

For example, Rosser encourages women to maintain a healthy weight by eating a well-balanced diet.

“Postpartum weight retention is a huge problem,” she said, “so if we can stress the importance to women of losing that pregnancy weight, that’s very important.”

It’s also important to exercise regularly, limit your alcohol consumption, and avoid smoking, she said.

Maintaining normal blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, too.

A new study found that aspirin may help women whose history of preeclampsia puts them at risk for serious cardiac events.

Among women under the age of 60, those with a history of preeclampsia who were regular aspirin users had the same risk of stroke as women who never had preeclampsia.

In comparison, the risk of stroke was 50 percent higher for women with a history of preeclampsia who weren’t regular aspirin users.