Women reported to have poor heart health before pregnancy

March 3, 2022
Women reported to have poor heart health before pregnancy

US women had poor cardiovascular health before becoming pregnant, said researchers of a new study carried out at Northwestern University in Illinois. According to the study, over half the women were reported to have at least one risk factor for poor heart health, including overweight/obesity, hypertension, and/or diabetes, before becoming pregnant.

“As women, we tend to think about the baby’s health once we become pregnant, but what so many women don’t realise is the very first thing they can do to protect their babies (and themselves) is to get their heart in shape before they even conceive,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan, assistant professor of medicine in cardiology and epidemiology at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

Dr. Natalie Cameron, an internal medicine specialist and instructor at Feinberg, echoed Dr. Khan’s statement. “Women with favorable heart health before pregnancy are less likely to experience complications of pregnancy and are more likely to deliver a healthy baby. Even more importantly, optimising heart health before and during pregnancy can prevent the development of heart disease years later.”

[Poor heart health puts expectant mothers and their babies at risk, with heart disease causing upwards of one in four pregnancy-related deaths, statistics show.]

More than one in two young women between the ages of 20 and 44 who gave birth in the country in 2019 had poor heart health before becoming pregnant. When comparing data by geographical region, the percentage of women with good heart health was found to be lower in Southern (38.1%) and Midwest (38.8%) states, compared with states in the West (42.2%) and Northeast (43.6%). There were also variations among states, ranging from less than one-third of women in Mississippi (31.2%) having good heart health prior to pregnancy compared to nearly half (47.2%) in Utah.

“The geographic patterns observed here are, unfortunately, very similar to what we see for heart disease and stroke in both women and men,” Dr. Khan admitted. “They indicate factors, such as social determinants of health, play a critical role in heart health as well as maternal health.”

Women are therefore encouraged to see a clinician prior to becoming pregnant, so they can be advised on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy. These include staying physically active, eating a healthy diet filled with vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins, and avoiding tobacco to reduce the risks for being overweight or developing high blood pressure or diabetes.

Read: Changes in social contact may have affected well-being of pregnant women

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