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06 March 2012

Pregnancy complications tied to cardiovascular risk

Hypertension and diabetes in pregnancy independently raise women's long-term risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to UK researchers.

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Hypertension and diabetes in pregnancy independently raise women's long-term risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to UK researchers.

Knowing this can help doctors "identify women, at a relatively young age, who are at increased risk of CVD later in life and could benefit from interventions and lifestyle changes to decrease that risk," Dr Abigail Fraser of the University of Bristol said.

Her findings are from a population-based birth-cohort study. She and her colleagues were able to analyse an average of 18 years of follow-up data on 13,617 women with a live singleton birth.

Pregnancy and heart risks

The typical woman in the study was 48 years old when Dr Fraser and colleagues assessed their CVD risk factors.

As reported online in Circulation, the association with the calculated 10 year CVD risk based on the Framingham prediction score was increased in women with a history of pre-eclampsia (odds ratio, 1.31) or gestational diabetes (odds ratio, 1.26).

Both gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia were associated with greater body mass index, waist, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, insulin, proinsulin and triglycerides, and lower HDL cholesterol.

Thirty-one women (1.3%) were diagnosed with CVD during follow-up. Overall, say the investigators, the "future risk of CVD based on the 10 year Framingham score was low (as would be expected given that the mean age of participants is 48 years), with a median predicted risk of 3.0%."

Nevertheless, given the apparent influence of these pregnancy complications, Dr Fraser said, "It would be useful for treating doctors – in addition to those providing care during the pregnancy – to have this information."

(Reuters Health, David Douglas, March 2012)

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