Women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy more likely to develop heart disease

July 01, 2020

Women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to develop heart disease and heart failure in later life, according to an international team of researchers.

Between 1-6% of all pregnancies in Western countries are affected by high blood pressure, which usually returns to normal after giving birth. This condition is known as gestational hypertension, or pregnancy-induced hypertension. It differs from pre-eclampsia in that traces of protein are not found in the urine. Clinicians increasingly recognise that women who have had gestational hypertension are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in later life.

However, studies of different kinds of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and heart failure, have found mixed results. 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, 128,000 of who previously had gestational hypertension. This type of study is a way of combining data from all existing relevant studies, allowing researchers to compare and consolidate results from often-contradictory studies to reach more robust conclusions.

The results are 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. 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.

The study adds to growing evidence of the relationship between pregnancy and subsequent risk of cardiovascular events. Recurrent miscarriages, preterm birth, foetal growth restriction and pre-eclampsia have all previously been linked with a greater risk of heart disease.

The researchers say it is not entirely clear why gestational hypertension is associated with heart disease in later life. However, they suggest it may be that high blood pressure in pregnancy causes lasting damage that contributes to cardiovascular disease. 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 added: "It's important that women know that it isn't their fault that they developed high blood pressure in pregnancy, and developing heart disease isn't a foregone conclusion. Women who have experienced gestational hypertension may have been dealt a tough hand, but it's how they play those cards that matters the most. 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's possible with kids around."
-end-
Dr Oliver-Williams is a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. The Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit is supported by the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council.

Reference

Lo, CCW & Lo, ACQ, et al. Future cardiovascular disease risk for women with gestational hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAHA; 24 Jun 2020; DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.119.013991

University of Cambridge

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.