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High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy Tied to Long-Term Heart Trouble for Hispanic Women

TUESDAY, Dec. 5, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Hispanic women who experience spikes in blood pressure while pregnant may also face higher heart risks years later, new research shows.

These "hypertensive disorders of pregnancy" (HDP) -- conditions such as preeclampsia, eclampsia and gestational hypertension -- may even have a greater role to play in certain heart risks than regular high blood pressure, the researchers noted.

“These findings emphasize the importance of recognizing HDP as an important risk factor for these future problems," said researcher Jasmina Varagic. She's a program officer in the Vascular Biology and Hypertension branch at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

According to Varagic's team, rates of HDP more than doubled among pregnant women in the United States between 2007 and 2019.

The increase was highest among pregnant Hispanic women, resulting in 60 cases of some form of hypertensive disorder per every 1,000 live births.

High blood pressure during pregnancy does not bode well for blood pressure long after the baby is born, the researchers noted. Prior studies have shown that HDP raises the odds of having chronic high blood pressure 10-fold.

In the new study, Varagic's group tracked the health of nearly 5,200 Hispanic women who'd had at least one child and who averaged about 59 years of age.

The researchers took special scans of each woman's heart, looking at the organ's left ventricle -- the "powerhouse" chamber that pumps blood out to the body.

They found that if a woman had experienced an HDP during a pregnancy, she was much more likely to have structural abnormalities in this area of the heart, compared to women without such histories.

Abnormalities in the left ventricle are highly correlated with a raised odds for heart failure, heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

Many of the older women in the study also had current high blood pressure, the researchers found. But they stressed that a history of blood pressure in pregnancy appeared to be a much bigger risk factor for dangerous heart structure changes.

The findings were published Dec. 4 in the journal Hypertension.

“This underscores the importance of early surveillance for heart abnormalities in women whose pregnancy is complicated by HDP, and also the importance of managing high blood pressure to prevent later life cardiovascular disease,” Varagic said in an NHLBI news release.

More information

There's tips to preventing high blood pressure in pregnancy at the Mayo Clinic.

SOURCE: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, news release, Dec. 4, 2023

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