New studies from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai have revealed that women who developed signs of high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to have lasting signs of abnormal heart structure and function up to a decade after pregnancy.
„This study helps to clarify that pregnancy is not just a ’stress test‘ for some women, but may also have long-term effects on the heart,“ said Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, Erika J. Glazer Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health, and Population Science director of Healthy Aging in a Women’s Cardiovascular Division at the Smidt Heart Institute and lead author of the study. „This risk can impact the heart years after pregnancy.“
The study, recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Hypertension, examined more than 5,000 Hispanic/Latina women with at least one previous pregnancy and identified those who suffered from hypertensive pregnancy disorders such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, or eclampsia.
This study corroborates previous findings and demonstrates that women who experience hypertensive disorders during pregnancy are more likely to have persistent changes in the structure and function of their heart as opposed to women who have normal blood pressure during pregnancy. Furthermore, this work shows that only a portion of the heart anomalies can be explained by the woman’s current blood pressure,“ said Natalie Bello, MD, MPH, head of hypertension research at the Smidt Heart Institute and co-author of the study.
After accounting for other cardiovascular risk factors that might otherwise lead to early signs of heart disease, the researchers found that about 14% of the study participants who developed hypertensive disorders during pregnancy had several persistent heart issues detected in heart imaging. These included greater thickness of the heart wall, more frequent abnormal left ventricle geometry, and lower ejection fraction compared to women who had been pregnant before but did not have associated hypertensive disorders.
Although Hispanic/Latina women account for a large and growing proportion of the population in the United States, they have historically been underrepresented in medical studies. By using data from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, a multicenter community-based study, researchers were able to include this diverse population in their research. However, the study authors note that the results of this study are likely not specific to a particular ethnic background, race, or national origin given the underlying diversity of Hispanic/Latina heritage.
„Cedars-Sinai has long been committed to research on women’s heart health, and this latest, pivotal study deepens our understanding of who is most at risk from pregnancy-related high blood pressure disorders,“ said Christine M. Albert, MD, MPH, chair of the Women’s Cardiovascular Division at the Smidt Heart Institute and holder of the Lee and Harold Kapelovitz Distinguished Chair in Cardiology, who was not involved in this study.
Quesada, O., et al. (2023). Cardiac anomalies in Hispanic/Latina women with antenatally de novo-hypertensive pregnancy syndromes. Hypertension. doi.org/10.1161/hypertensionaha.123.21248.