Cardiovascular Disease Is Mostly Caused by Pre-Pregnancy Obesity

Preeclampsia and gestational diabetes are two pregnancy problems currently linked to an increased risk of heart disease in later life.

According to a recent study, the risk of future cardiovascular disease is tied to obesity during or before pregnancy. Until this study, scientists were uncertain whether factors, obesity, or pregnancy complications significantly impacted the risk of cardiovascular disease years after pregnancy.

The first to untangle that issue, the big, multi-center, and multidisciplinary study published in the journal Circulation Research, concluded that pre-pregnancy obesity is the real cause of poor pregnancy outcomes and future cardiovascular disease risk.

We demonstrate, for the first time, that adverse pregnancy outcomes are primarily indicators — and not the root cause — of future heart health.

-Sadiya Khan, corresponding author

This, she continues, only means that pregnancy highlights an already present risk for heart disease.

The study prospectively followed 4,216 first-time mothers from the early stages of their pregnancies to an average of 3.7 years postpartum using data from the nuMoM2b Heart Health Study.

The average maternal age was 27, 53% had a normal BMI, 25% were overweight, and 22% were obese at the first research visit in the early stages of pregnancy. People with an overweight or obese BMI in the early stages of pregnancy were more likely to experience hypertensive disorders than those with a normal BMI.

Maintaining a healthy body while pregnant

Since pregnancy is a natural stress test for the heart, Khan says their theory was that it may be that the challenges of pregnancy are revealing these things.

The team wants to prevent these cardiovascular events from happening, not merely wait for patients to experience them.

The "Zero trimester," or pre-pregnancy wellness, is an essential guiding principle in Khan's study. According to Khan, by enhancing one's health throughout this crucial period of life, a person may improve not just their pregnancy and unborn child's results but also their long-term health.

Khan acknowledged that it might be challenging to reach out to women before they get pregnant.

Therefore, since patients are more likely to contact physicians during prenatal visits early in the pregnancy, it may be an excellent opportunity to offer advice on heart-healthy behaviors like diet and exercise.

The researchers don't suggest dieting while pregnant but instead encourage counseling and monitoring to ensure proper gestational weight increase.

About 15% of all individuals had a high blood pressure issue; 11% had a low birth weight infant; 8% had a preterm delivery; and 4% had gestational diabetes.

Those with problems with high blood pressure were 97% more likely to have high blood pressure and 31% more likely to have high cholesterol in the years after giving birth. The researchers discovered that body weight did not affect chances for several problems. For instance, there was no greater risk of preterm birth or low birth weight for those who were overweight or obese.

In conclusion, all individuals, however, were more likely to develop high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol after giving a baby if they had premature deliveries.


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