Decades after Hypertensive Pregnancy Complications, Effects Linger in Hispanic Women
Hispanic/Latina women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP)—conditions marked by high blood pressure during pregnancy—are more likely to have abnormalities in their heart structure and function decades later, compared with women without a history of HDP. Findings from this NIH-supported study were published in Hypertension.
“The changes in cardiac structure and function that this study uncovers are known predictors of cardiovascular events such as heart failure and even death,” said Dr. Jasmina Varagic of NHLBI.
The rates of HDP—which include preeclampsia, eclampsia and gestational hypertension—more than doubled between 2007–2019 in the U.S., with Hispanic/Latina women having the highest rate of over 60 cases per 1,000 live births. Previous studies have shown that among women who have HDP, up to 20% will continue to have high blood pressure six months after giving birth and will also have up to a 10-fold lifetime risk of chronic hypertension.
For the study, the researchers used participants in the NHLBI-funded Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, a multi-center community-based cohort of Hispanic/Latino adults. The cohort included 5,168 women who had at least one prior pregnancy and whose average age was 58.7 years at the time of the study.
Participants underwent ultrasound scans to look for alterations in the structure and function of the heart, in the thickness and shape of the left ventricle—which pumps blood throughout the body—and how well the heart squeezes and relaxes. These abnormalities, particularly in the geometry of the left ventricle, are known to predict future cardiovascular events.
The findings highlight the importance of early monitoring and management of hypertension during and after pregnancy.