A new study highlights the importance of including a woman’s reproductive history in heart disease risk assessments.
Researchers from the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City found that having a preterm delivery may increase a woman’s heart disease risk over her lifetime.
Ischemic heart disease occurs when a buildup of plaque or clots in the arteries reduces the blood flow to the heart. Complications of heart disease include heart failure, heart attack and stroke.
“Preterm delivery should now be recognized as an independent risk factor for IHD across the life course,” study co-author Dr. Casey Crump, a professor of family medicine and community health, told HealthDay News.
The researchers analyzed data from millions of Swedish women who had a single birth between 1973 and 2015. They were followed for up to 43 years.
Preterm delivery at 34 to 36 weeks doubled a woman’s risk for ischemic heart disease in the 10 years after she gave birth. Women who delivered at 22 to 27 weeks had a risk four times higher than those who delivered at full term. Even women who delivered between 37 and 38 weeks had an 1.4 increased risk.
The heightened risk was independent of other heart disease risk factors, like obesity and smoking, Crump said. That led researchers to suggest that a woman’s reproductive history, including both preterm delivery and pregnancy complications, should factor into a heart disease assessment.
“Women with a history of preterm delivery may warrant early preventive actions to reduce other IHD risk factors, including obesity, physical inactivity and smoking, and long-term monitoring for timely detection and treatment of IHD,” Crump said.
Almost 10% of the babies born in the U.S are delivered preterm. Previous studies have found that women who deliver babies preterm are more likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes – both major heart disease factors.
Preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, also is a risk factor for developing heart disease.
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.