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Women With Preeclampsia Are More Likely To Develop Cardiac Conditions Later In Life

According to a study done by Massachusetts General Hospital for the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, it confirms that women who have gestational hypertension or preeclampsia in at least one pregnancy have a higher risk for cardiovascular problems than women who did not preeclampsia.

What is preeclampsia? Preeclampsia is a condition that some pregnant women have that typically occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy. It is also known as gestational hypertension. It is when pregnant women suddenly have high blood pressure.

Most women who experience preeclampsia usually have no history of having high blood pressure before pregnancy. Preeclamptic women will have a high level of protein in their urine and often also have swelling in the feet, legs, and hands. This condition usually appears late in pregnancy, though it can happen earlier and may even develop just after delivery, according to WebMD.

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If you are a mom who has had preeclampsia you need to read this. A seven-year study examined and followed-up with more than 22,000 women between 2006 and 2010 in the United Kingdom. Over the course of those seven years, the data concluded three significant findings on how preeclampsia affects women's health long-term.

"Research over the past decade has shown there are sex-specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease among women," said lead author Michael C. Honigberg, MD, MPP, of Massachusetts General Hospital's (MGH) Cardiology Division. "But there were still some significant gaps in our understanding of those risks, and one gap is whether the elevated risk persists long-term after a hypertensive pregnancy, or whether other women 'catch up' as cardiovascular risk increases with age in the population overall."

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The first conclusion is women who have had a history with hypertensive pregnancy tend to have stiffer arteries than those who did not. It was also revealed that women who have experienced gestational hypertension are two to five times more likely to develop chronic hypertension later in life than those who have not had preeclampsia.

The second conclusion showed that those women who had preeclampsia were more likely to develop cardiovascular conditions over time, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and two kinds of valvular heart disease -- aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation -- that had not previously been associated with hypertensive pregnancy.

The final conclusion found that between half and one-third of the women had or experienced coronary disease and heart failure that was driven by chronic hypertension.  However, Honigberg still has hope. Future studies, he said, may look at new approaches for treating hypertension by simply treating the condition more aggressively in women who have had at least one hypertensive pregnancy.

"You'd be shocked at how few physicians who aren't obstetrician/gynecologists -- including cardiologists -- ask their female patients if they've had a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy," Honigberg said. "This research really underscores the importance of clinicians asking about this history and of women sharing it." It's important to share your health history with your physicians' pre and post-pregnancy so they can have a full scope of your medical history.

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