Impact of High blood pressure during pregnancy on Heart function

Impact of High blood pressure during pregnancy on Heart function – A new study has found that women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to have lasting changes in the structure and function of their hearts, even years later. The study, published in the journal Hypertension, looked at more than 5,000 Hispanic/Latina women with at least one prior pregnancy and identified those who had hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, such as gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, or eclampsia.

The study’s findings

The study found that the approximately 14% of study participants who had developed hypertensive disorders during pregnancy had several persistent heart-related issues found on cardiac imaging. These included:

  • Greater heart-wall thickness
  • More frequent abnormal left-ventricle geometry
  • Lower ejection fraction

When compared to women who also had a prior pregnancy but without any related hypertensive disorder.

What does this mean for women?

The study’s findings highlight the importance of monitoring blood pressure during pregnancy and following up with a doctor after delivery, even if blood pressure returns to normal. Women who have had high blood pressure during pregnancy may be at increased risk for heart disease later in life, so it is important to take steps to reduce their risk factors, such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking.

Impact of high blood pressure during pregnancy on Heart function

Immediate effects:

  • Increased workload: During pregnancy, the heart already has to work harder to pump blood to both the mother and the developing baby. High blood pressure adds to this workload, straining the heart muscle and potentially leading to heart problems like arrhythmias or heart failure.

  • Damage to blood vessels: High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels, making them more narrow and less elastic. This can lead to reduced blood flow to the heart and other organs, further compromising heart function.

Long-term effects:

  • Increased risk of heart disease: Women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy are at an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life, such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart failure.

  • Structural changes to the heart: Studies have shown that high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to lasting changes in the structure of the heart, such as thickening of the heart walls and enlargement of the heart chambers. These changes can further impair heart function.

Here are some specific ways that high blood pressure during pregnancy can affect heart function:

  • Left ventricular hypertrophy: This is a condition in which the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart, thickens in response to the increased workload. While this can help to maintain blood flow in the short term, it can eventually lead to heart failure.
  • Diastolic dysfunction: This is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes stiff and less able to relax properly between beats. This can lead to shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in the legs and feet.
  • Reduced ejection fraction: This is a measure of how much blood the heart pumps out with each beat. A low ejection fraction is a sign that the heart is not functioning well.

It is important to note that not all women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy will experience these long-term effects. However, it is important to be aware of the risks and to take steps to reduce your risk factors, such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress.

If you have any concerns about your heart health during or after pregnancy, be sure to talk to your doctor. They can monitor your blood pressure and heart function and recommend treatment if necessary.

Early diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy is essential for protecting both the mother and the baby’s health. By taking steps to control your blood pressure, you can help to reduce your risk of heart problems both now and in the future.

Future research

More research is needed to understand how hypertensive disorders of pregnancy affect the heart and to develop better ways to prevent and treat long-term heart problems in women who have had these conditions.

Additional notes:

  • The study was conducted by researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
  • The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
  • The study’s findings are consistent with other studies that have shown that women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy are at increased risk for heart disease later in life. Study source

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