High blood pressure during pregnancy linked with heart disease risk

Women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy may face increased risk of developing chronic high blood pressure later in life, as well as increased risk for type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol—all risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

The study analyzed data from nearly 59,000 women who gave birth for the first time between 1964 and 2008. The researchers found that, compared with women who had normal blood pressure through their pregnancies, women who developed high blood pressure were 2-3 times more likely to have high blood pressure again in the future. They also had a 65% higher risk of developing diabetes and had a 36% higher risk of high cholesterol.

The lead author, Jennifer Stuart, conducted the study while a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Chan School and is now an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“While doctors typically screen for these cardiovascular risk factors in older adults, we see that women with high blood pressure during pregnancy develop these risk factors earlier in life than women with normal blood pressure in pregnancy,” Stuart said in a July 2, 2018 Reuters article. “Therefore, it is especially important for these women to regularly see their doctor after pregnancy to monitor their blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol.”

Other Harvard Chan School study authors included Stacey Missmer, Eric Rimm, Donna Spiegelman, Tamarra James-Todd, Janet Rich-Edwards, and doctoral student Lauren Tanz.

Read the Reuters article: High blood pressure in pregnancy tied to heart disease risk afterward

Read the BWH release: Women with High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy More Likely to Develop Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors