According to a new study published in the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association (AHA) journal, more than 1 in 2 young women between the ages of 20 to 44 who gave birth in the United States in 2019 had poor heart health before becoming pregnant, causing more than 1 in 4 pregnancy-related deaths.
More than half the women in the study had at least one risk factor for poor heart health, which includes overweight/obesity and hypertension or diabetes. Being overweight or obese was the most common reason for poor heart health according to the study results.
Study author Dr. Natalie Cameron said: “Women with favorable heart health before pregnancy are less likely to experience complications of pregnancy and are more likely to deliver a healthy baby.” “Even more importantly, optimizing heart health before and during pregnancy can prevent the development of heart disease years later. Clinicians can play a key role in both assessing and optimizing heart health prior to pregnancy.”
The researchers also compared the data by geographical region. The percentage of women with good heart health was lower in the South and Midwest states, compared with the states in the West and Northeast. The state with the best heart health prior to pregnancy was Utah, with nearly half (47.2%), and the lowest state was Mississippi with less than one-third (31.2%).
The scientists encourage women to see a physician or other health care clinician prior to becoming pregnant, and also to stay physically active, eat a healthy diet filled with vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins. All of which are important factors contributing to cardiovascular health, and which decreases the risk of pregnancy complications and death.
Northwestern University. “First get your heart in shape then get pregnant: Most women in the U.S. have poor heart health before becoming pregnant.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220214144050.htm>.