Mother and child

More than half of new American moms have poor heart health prior to becoming pregnant, according to new research.  (Source: Adobe Stock)

 

 

More than half of women between the ages of 20 and 44 who gave birth in the U.S. in 2019 had poor heart health before becoming pregnant, say researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

To be placed in the “poor” category meant this large percentage of new moms had at least one major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including overweight/obesity, hypertension or diabetes. Good or optimal heart health was defined as being in a normal weight range for height (with a Body Mass Index between 18-24.9kg/m2) and the absence of high blood pressure or diabetes. 

Being overweight or obese was the most common reason for poor heart health before pregnancy, the study found. 

“As women, we tend to think about the baby’s health once we become pregnant, but what so many women don’t realize is the very first thing they can do to protect their babies…and themselves…is to get their heart in shape before they even conceive,” said senior study author Dr. Sadiya Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern. 

Heart disease now causes more than one in four pregnancy-related deaths, statistics show. Poor heart health not only puts expectant mothers and their babies at risk of complications during pregnancy, but also contributes to a woman’s risk of heart disease later in life, the authors said.

Data for the study came from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Natality Database, analyzing over 14 million live births between 2016 and 2019. The scientists also compared data by region, finding that good heart health was lowest in the South (38.1%) and Midwest (38.8%), and somewhat higher in the West (42.2%) and Northeast (43.6%). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths during pregnancy are on the increase in the U.S., which now has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country in the world. 

Lisa Russell covers health and aging for both West Newsmagazine and Mid Rivers Newsmagazine. She is a West St. Louis County native [Parkway South, class of 1979] and graduate of Mizzou’s journalism school. She and her husband have three grown children.  

Lisa Russell covers health and aging for both West Newsmagazine and Mid Rivers Newsmagazine. She is a West St. Louis County native [Parkway South, class of 1979] and graduate of Mizzou’s journalism school. She and her husband have three grown children.

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