Obese young women who have recently given birth have a greatly increased risk
of heart attack and stroke, according to a new study.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 273 000 women in Denmark with an
average age of 30 who had given birth between 2004 and 2009. None of the women
had a history of stroke, heart disease or kidney problems. During up to six
years of follow-up, 68 of the women had a heart attack and 175 had a stroke.
Obese women were twice as likely as those with normal weight to suffer a
heart attack or stroke within four to five years after giving birth. This
increased risk among obese women remained even after the researchers accounted
for other pregnancy-related complications or cardiovascular risk factors,
Although heart attack and stroke are very rare among women in this age group,
a clear and strong link exists between being overweight and increased risk, the
researchers said. The study did not, however, prove a cause-and-effect
relationship between the two.
They also discovered that women who were underweight had a slightly increased
risk for heart attack and stroke.
Findings apply to all women
"Young women need to be aware that there are serious health risks associated
with obesity and poor lifestyle habits, and these [negative effects] appear to
set in early," lead investigator Michelle Schmiegelow, a PhD student at the
University of Copenhagen, said in an American College of Cardiology news
"This study is important because although the incidence of heart disease is
declining overall, this downward trend doesn't seem to apply to women 35 to 44
years of age," she said. "In fact, coronary artery disease seems to be on the
rise in this group, however it is still very rare."
Although this study included only women who had given birth, Schmiegelow said
she believes the findings apply to all young, healthy women.
Because the research was presented at a medical meeting, the data and
conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart
disease in women.