The high blood pressure during pregnancy increases the risk of future heart disease, according to a study carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) recently published in the 'Journal of the American Heart Association'.
Between one and six percent of pregnant women tend to have high blood pressure during pregnancy, although their levels stabilize after delivery. This condition is known as gestational hypertension or pregnancy-induced hypertension, and differs from preeclampsia in that no trace of protein is found in the urine.
To further examine these links, an international team of researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 studies involving a total of 3.6 million women, 128,000 of whom had gestational hypertension. The researchers found that women who experienced high blood pressure during their first pregnancy had a 45 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease overall and a 46 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease, compared to women who did not have high blood pressure in pregnancy.
Likewise, women with one or more pregnancies affected by high blood pressure had an 81 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, an 83 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease, and a 77 percent increased risk of heart failure. "When we looked at all the available research, the answer was clear: Women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, even when it does not become preeclampsia, are more likely to develop several different types of cardiovascular disease," the researchers have detailed.
The study adds to the growing evidence of the relationship between pregnancy and the subsequent risk of cardiovascular events. Recurrent miscarriages, preterm labor, fetal growth restriction, and preeclampsia have previously been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
The researchers say it is not entirely clear why gestational hypertension is associated with heart disease in adulthood. However, they suggest that high blood pressure in pregnancy may cause lasting damage that contributes to cardiovascular disease. Alternatively, women who develop gestational hypertension may have pre-existing susceptibility to cardiovascular disease due to great demands that pregnancy imposes to the body of women.