A woman’s pregnancy can help her physician determine her risk of heart disease years down the road.
In 2011, the American Heart Association updated its guidelines stating that physicians should screen female patients for history of pregnancy-related hypertension, preeclampsia (a blood pressure abnormality during pregnancy) and/or gestational diabetes. These conditions are markers for an increased risk of heart disease in women.
This type of screening is relatively new.
Cardiologist Sara Mobasseri, M.D., says, “In the past, we didn’t screen women for pregnancy-related complications, such as pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia.”
Studies have followed women with pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia and found that, years later, they had higher incidences of heart attack and stroke.
“Preeclampsia can be a harbinger for cardiovascular disease five to 15 years after the pregnancy,” says Dr. Mobasseri. “There is a relationship and it is now considered a risk factor for heart disease in women with those types of complications.”
Physicians should now screen female patients for the following heart disease risk factors:
Dr. Mobasseri recommends patients who have had pregnancy complications meet the following goals for heart health:
If you’re not meeting these goals and you have experienced pregnancy complications, you should talk to your primary care physician about seeing a cardiologist.
“There is a clear relationship, there are guideline recommendations and it should be part of our practice in screening these women,” says Dr. Mobasseri.
For more information on heart disease screening for women, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.