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High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Affects Heart

September 8th, 2021

Women who experience hypertension – or high blood pressure – during pregnancy are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) later in life. However, the mechanism behind this association is not well understood, which has limited medicine’s ability to predict and prevent CVD among these women. Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has revealed that hypertensive disorders during pregnancy have long-term impacts on the structure of the heart, which may serve as an early warning sign of CVD.

The study, led by Malamo Countouris, MD, recruited a total of 132 women who had given birth between 2008 and 2009. Of these women, 102 had normal blood pressure during pregnancy and 30 had a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP). The researchers recorded the participants’ blood pressures and used echocardiography to measure certain aspects of their hearts. Then, this information was compared to blood pressure and echocardiogram readings from their pregnancies ten years earlier.

The results show that women with a history of HDP were more likely to be affected by left ventricular (LV) remodeling, which the researchers define as a thickening of the left ventricular wall of the heart. The researchers also found that women with HPD were more likely to suffer from current hypertension. This “double-hit” group was most commonly affected by LV remodeling, with 79% of the group having a thickened LV wall.

Previous research has shown that LV remodeling is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular health issues, such as stroke and heart failure. Therefore, these findings can be used to identify women with a history of HDP who are at risk for later-life CVD – early intervention could be crucial for preventing and addressing heart problems in this group of individuals.

Learn more about Heart and Circulation research studies.