Pre-eclampsia linked to heart disease later in life

November 22, 2001

Long term mortality of mothers and fathers after pre-eclampsia: population based cohort study BMJ Volume 323, pp 1213-17

Genetic factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease may also be linked to pre-eclampsia (a serious condition that can develop during the second half of a pregnancy), finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers in Norway identified 626,272 mothers whose first delivery was registered between 1967 and 1992. Mothers and fathers were divided into groups based on whether the mother had pre-eclampsia during the pregnancy and whether the birth was term or preterm. Deaths from cardiovascular causes, cancer, and stroke in both parents were followed through to 1992.

Women who had pre-eclampsia and a preterm delivery had an eightfold higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared with women who did not have pre-eclampsia and whose pregnancies went to term. The long term risk of death was no higher among the fathers of the pre-eclamptic pregnancies than the fathers of pregnancies in which pre-eclampsia did not occur.

These findings are consistent with but do not prove the hypothesis that the long term risk of death from cardiovascular causes is associated with a maternal genetic predisposition to pre-eclampsia, say the authors.

"Although our results apply only to relatively young women, the implications for the determination of the causes of pre-eclampsia and eventually its prevention may still be important," say the authors. With longer follow up the pattern of risks may become clearer but may also change. For instance, it is possible that the risk of death in the long term changes with outcome in subsequent pregnancies, they conclude.


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