(NaturalNews) Pre-eclampsia during pregnancy can be a frightening experience for any mother, but it's not unusual for fears to subside once the pregnancy is over. Evidence suggests, however, that women who experience pre-eclampsia should heed the condition as a warning that they may be at increased risk for developing heart disease later in life.
Pre-eclampsia affects about 5 percent of all pregnancies. It's a largely unexplained condition which has symptoms of high blood pressure, swelling, vision problems and headaches. Although pre-eclampsia can be fatal to both the mother and fetus, the condition disappears after pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia and heart disease may seem like two unrelated conditions, but research says there may be a strong association between the two, as shown by two studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2007.
One study examined 25 previous studies, which included more than 3 million women, to determine if pre-eclampsia could be associated with future health conditions such as heart disease. Results showed women who experienced pre-eclampsia during pregnancy were four times more likely to develop high blood pressure (hypertension) later in life. They were also twice as likely to experience heart disease, stroke and blood clots in the future. No association was found between pre-eclampsia and any kind of cancer, however.
A second study in Norway analyzed nearly 3,500 women before pregnancy to detect heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. Researchers then followed the participants to determine their risk for developing pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Women who had previous risk factors for heart disease were seven times more likely to develop pre-eclampsia. The risk was also greater for those with a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Researchers conclude that a history of pre-eclampsia should be considered when determining the risk of developing heart disease. Certainly women who have experienced pre-eclampsia should be extra vigilant when it comes to adopting healthy lifestyle habits that could prevent heart disease.
"It's a wake-up call," says Dr. Graeme N. Smith, who is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Queen's University in Ontario and also the author of a study about the association between pre-eclampsia and heart disease.
These study results have a positive side: better prevention of heart disease. While it may not be comforting to hear that pre-eclampsia may be a predictor of heart disease, there is hope that the condition may help prevent the same dangers it predicts. "The earlier you diagnose them, the more likely you are to prevent cardiovascular disease," Dr. Smith says. "This is an opportunity where people can change their future."
Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more: www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2009/10/welcome.html
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