Pregnancy complications increase women's risk of heart disease, death

Young women who have a range of complications during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or preterm birth, are at an increased risk of developing heart disease and of dying later in life, according to new analyses by a team of Duke University Medical Center and Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center cardiologists and obstetricians. Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by a sharp rise in blood pressure during pregnancy and may be accompanied by edema (swelling) and kidney problems.

The researchers also found that mothers who continue to smoke cigarettes during pregnancy are not only harming health of the developing fetus but are doubling their own risks of dying from future heart disease or from any cause.

These insights have important public health implications, the researchers continued, because they identify young pregnant women as a previously underappreciated group of patients who would appear to benefit from targeted prevention efforts, including smoking cessation efforts.

"Given the high percentage of women who continue to smoke during their pregnancy, targeting this behavior would not only benefit the health of the fetus but reduce the mother's future risk for early death," said Duke cardiologist Mimi Biswas, M.D. Biswas presented the results of two separate analyses March 13, 2006, during the 55th annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in Atlanta.

Biswas's research is supported by the National Institutes of Health's Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) Fellowship and the ACC Foundation/Guidant Foundation Fellowship and Career Development Award in Women's Cardiovascular Health.

"The complications during pregnancy that we studied could have lasting effects on the cardiovascular system and can be seen as novel early warning signs of future heart disease or mortality risk," she continued. "Typically, younger women tend not to be closely fo

Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center

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