According to some recent studies, most women giving birth in the US have poor heart health. Read about the report here.
In recent studies published in a Go Red For Women spotlight issue, only about 40% of U.S. women had good heart health before their pregnancy. In other words, most women giving birth in the US have poor heart health. Poor heart health increases the risk of complications and death in both pregnant women and their children.
According to lead study author Natalie A. Cameron, M.D., an internal medicine specialist and instructor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, catching heart problems early is essential. “Being in good health prior to pregnancy benefits the long-term health of women and their children. Poor maternal heart health is related to poor outcomes for babies at birth, such as being born early or at a smaller weight for their gestational age, and it is also linked to poor heart health later in life for these children.”
What the Research Says
The 2019 study shows that the most common reason for poor heart health before pregnancy was being overweight or obese. In addition, more than 1 in 2 women had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease before getting pregnant. The risk factors identified were obesity or being overweight, high blood pressure (hypertension), and diabetes.
Researchers also found that good heart health was in an overall decline across the country (by more than 3% over the course of three years). However, they also noticed geographical differences. For instance, good heart health was lower in southern and midwestern states than those in the west or northeast.
The researchers also note that social determinants of health may be impacting these geographical differences. For example, factors such as educational status, access to preventive care, and being able to afford healthy foods can affect the results.
“Pregnancy is nature’s stress test. There are many changes in the body during pregnancy, particularly the heart, including increased blood circulation that put an extra burden on a woman’s heart. Making sure you are in the best health you can be prior to getting pregnant will assure you have the best pregnancy outcomes,” Garima V. Sharma, M.B.B.S., director of cardio-obstetrics and an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Sharma was not involved in this study but is the co-author of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Statement on Cardiovascular Consideration in Caring for Pregnant Patients.
The authors note that changes to our current health policies regarding equitable access to care before, during, and after pregnancy are necessary. Meanwhile, what you can do is focus on your health and do your best to be as healthy as you can before, during, and after pregnancy.
Some simple things you can do are exercise regularly, eat healthier, and take supplements to boost your health. For example, L-arginine Plus is a heart-health supplement that promotes circulation, blood pressure health, cholesterol health, and more. If you’re ready to support your heart health before getting pregnant, then try to be as healthy as possible and take L-arginine Plus.