Women who have hypertensive disorders while pregnant are very likely to develop cardiovascular disease and kidney disease later in life, according to the findings of a study recently carried out by a team of scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Investigating medical data of 4,782 women, the team found that those who experienced hypertension while carrying a baby were significantly more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease symptoms after the age of 40 than their counterparts with normal high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Leader of the research Dr. Vesna D. Garovic of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester stated: "Along with menopause and hormone use, hypertensive pregnancy diseases may contribute to gender-specific differences in the clinical course and outcomes of CVD. Improved screening, prevention, and treatment strategies may not only optimize management of problems related to high blood pressure during pregnancy, but also have a long-term impact on women's cardiovascular events and outcomes years after the affected pregnancies."
For instance, hypertensive moms were twice as likely to face stroke and 1.5 times more likely to experience coronary disease events such as myocardial infarction than their normotensive peers. Moreover, pregnancy hypertensive disorders were also associated with an increased risk of microalbuminuria - a disorder linked to leakage of small amounts of protein (albumin) into the urine. Most of the times, this albumin disorder is closely connected to kidney disease, being one of its early signs. Hypertensive pregnant women are also more prone to develop pre-eclempsia.
Dr. Garovic pointed out the fact that most previous studies have not associated high blood pressure during pregnancy with a later high risk for serious conditions. However, the findings of the current research speak for themselves and constitute a 'tocsin' for future mothers to manage their tension before conceiving. The Mayo Clinic expert stated: "Traditionally, these hypertensive pregnancy disorders-including a potentially serious complication called pre-eclampsia-have not been considered to have any long-term impact on the mother's health. However, our results support the role of hypertension during pregnancy as a risk factor for CVD later in life."
Researchers explained that there are two possible explanations for the close connection between pregnancy hypertension and further risk of developing cardiovascular disease and kidney problems. One of the explanations consists in the fact that hypertensive disorders during pregnancy may later cause metabolic vascular and metabolic disorders, including CVD and kidney problems. On the other hand, pre-eclempsia, which is usually associated with hypertension during pregnancy, shares many risk factors with heart disease, diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.
"It may be that these disorders, especially pre-eclampsia, share common risk factors with CVD, such as obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease. Or, it may be that hypertension in pregnancy induces long-term metabolic and vascular abnormalities, which may lead to an increase in overall CVD risk later in life," said the lead researcher of the study.