Prehypertensive Pregnant Women 6.5 More Likely To Develop Metabolic SyndromeJuly 05, 2016
A first-of-its-kind finding, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, suggests that pregnant women who experience frequent blood pressure elevations in the higher normal range are 6.5 times more prone to developing postpartum cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
The study was conducted by researchers from Guangdong Women and Children Hospital in China where 507 expectant mothers were observed and tested over the span of their pregnancies up to 1.6 years after giving birth. Each participant was subjected to several blood pressure measurements in addition to other standard tests such as weight measurements and fetal ultrasounds.
Current blood pressure guidelines prescribe normal levels as being less than 120/80 mm/Hg for adults aged 20 and older while hypertensive patients have blood pressure levels at 140/90 mm/Hg or above. Patients with a systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 mm/Hg and a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 mm/Hg are considered to be prehypertensive.
Patients who took part in the study had no previous history of hypertension, and maintained normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study. The women were grouped into three categories according to their blood pressure levels. 34% had blood pressure measurements on the lower end of normal throughout pregnancy. 52% belonged to the group whose blood pressure was at midpoint-normal. 13% belonged to the higher range of normal and classified as prehypertensive.
In a statement made by Jian-Min Niu, M.D. and her team, they noted that blood pressure measurements done over the span of a woman’s lifetime would not predict the risk of metabolic syndrome. However, repeated elevation patterns over the course of a pregnancy would. Through the collected data, the research team was able to emphasize the need for soon-to-be mothers to have their own set of blood pressure parameters to ensure healthy and safe pregnancies.
"Our findings underscore an important issue that has been long ignored in clinical practice -- the fact that criteria for hypertension in pregnancy are derived from the general population," said Niu. "We anticipate that if reaffirmed in further research, our study could spark a change in what we currently deem healthy blood pressure in pregnant women."
Metabolic syndrome is marked by a group of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels that heighten the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes after delivery. Previous research has also revealed that pregnant women who experience higher blood pressure levels or persistent blood pressure elevation in the upper ranges are more likely to give birth to an underweight or stillborn baby.
"Blood pressure measurements are already done as a matter of routine and cost-effective checkups during pregnancy, so our findings underscore this tool's potential to gauge a woman's post-partum cardiovascular risk," Niu said. "Early identification of metabolic risk factors and implementation of lifestyle modifications may help delay the onset of cardiovascular disease that would present itself 20 to 30 years after delivery."
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