Two research teams from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston are reviewing data from 34,639 female participants. What they are finding is that the more pregnancies a woman’s body endures, the higher the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation, later in life.
Atrial fibrillation has been known to cause a higher risk of stroke or heart attack. They are wondering why the risk increases with multiple pregnancies. What they do know is that during pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes significant changes in hormones. It is believed that those changes, along with inflammation that occurs in the body during pregnancy, may put undue stress on the heart.
Researchers followed-up with their participants over a 20-year period and brought the study to completion. They found that those with a single pregnancy had a 15 percent risk of developing atrial fibrillation; those with two or three pregnancies had a 20 percent increased risk; and those with four to five pregnancies had a 36 percent increased risk. The risk was at 46 percent for six pregnancies or more.
Dr. Jorge Wong, is a cardiologist at Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and served as lead author of this study. He advised there are “documented cardiac changes” that happen in the heart during pregnancy. Doctors tend to expect these changes to resolve themselves after the birth.
However, Dr. Wong stated that in women who have had multiple pregnancies, “these structural changes may take longer to resolve.” Additional studies suggest that women who have experienced pregnancy-related complications may be at an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life. Women who deliver before 32 weeks gestational period are at twice the risk in comparison to women who deliver full term.
Doctors continue to study further in order to discover and uncover the reasons for increased risk of heart disease in order to help more patients. They encourage women, and especially those who have had multiple pregnancies, to pay close attention to their heart health. These women should take care to eat right, exercise, limit alcoholic beverages, and they should not smoke.
These are the best ways to decrease risk of heart failure and increase the chance to live a heart healthy life.
What concerns do you have about multiple pregnancies and heart health? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.