MONDAY, Nov. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Hispanic women who've had at least five children are much more likely to develop a certain type of heart trouble than those who've had fewer children or none, a new study finds.
A team of researchers led by Shivani Aggarwal of Wake Forest School of Medicine analyzed data on 855 Hispanic women, 45 and older, from Chicago, Miami, New York City and San Diego. About 12 percent of them had given birth to at least six children.
A type of heart trouble called ventricular diastolic dysfunction -- an abnormal relaxation phase of the heart -- occurred in 85 percent of the women who'd given birth to more than five children, in 61 percent to 63 percent of those with two to four children, and in 51 percent of those who had not given birth.
"Diastolic dysfunction is a sign of the heart stiffening -- potentially leading to heart failure and chronic cardiac disease," explained one expert, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She was not connected to the study.
The findings were to be presented Monday in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).
Speaking in an AHA news release, study leader Aggarwal said, "Further studies are needed to determine the functional changes that occur and ... whether these changes translate into heart failure."
According to Steinbaum, Hispanic women with at least five children" need to be counseled regarding the potential for heart failure with multiple pregnancies and the potential risks. Doctors also need to be aware of these statistics to diagnose and treat this issue early on."
Another expert cautioned that more research is needed, however.
"This is only one study," said Dr. Icilma Fergus, director of cardiovascular disparities at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "I think this begs to be studied further and these women followed over time to see what their outcomes are."
Experts note that findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart disease in women.