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Pregnancy Complications May Signal Long-Term Heart Trouble

Obstetric problems may put women at cardiovascular risk, study finds

MONDAY, March 13, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women who experience numerous complications, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or preterm birth, may also be at an increased risk of developing heart disease and early death, new research suggests.

Pregnancy complications were associated with an independent 60 percent increased risk for development of cardiovascular disease and a more than two-fold increased risk for death from any cause, according to analyses done by a team from Duke University Medical Center and Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

They presented the findings Monday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, in Atlanta.

The researchers also concluded that women who continue to smoke during pregnancy not only harm the health of their fetus, they also more than double their risk of all-cause death and nearly triple their risk of cardiac death. Smoking also close to doubles a woman's risk of developing coronary artery disease.

"The complications during pregnancy that we studied could have lasting effects on the cardiovascular system and can be seen as novel early warning signs of future heart disease or mortality risk," Duke cardiologist Dr. Mimi Biswas said in a prepared statement.

The findings suggest a new group that could benefit from targeted heart disease prevention efforts.

"Typically, younger women tend not to be closely followed for cardiovascular disease -- based on the results of our analyses, those with difficult pregnancies should be," Biswas said. "Knowing that these complications may have ramifications later in life gives us a unique opportunity to catch women early. When women are young, they may tend to focus on the care of their babies and gloss over going to the doctor for their own care."

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about women and heart disease.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, March 13, 2006
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