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Cardiovascular disease and pregnancy: How having kids affects your heart

Eat healthy and exercise during and after pregnancy ©Shutterstock

Giving birth is associated with a 14% higher risk of heart disease and stroke compared to having no children.

Written by Upneet Pansare |Updated : December 21, 2018 12:30 PM IST

Pregnancy is daunting for several reasons. There are several aspects one needs to keep in mind when it comes to giving birth. Everything you do, what you eat, the way you think, the way you maintain your lifestyle affects the baby in different ways. This is why extreme precautions need to be taken. But while most of the efforts are concentrated on the health of the baby, the well-being of the soon-to-be mother is often neglected. A new study tells us why this shouldn t be the case. In this shocking research, it has been found that giving birth is associated with a 14% higher risk of heart disease and stroke compared to having no children.

Why pregnancy ups the risk of heart disease and stroke

The study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology throws light on the association between giving birth and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A press release by the European Society of Cardiology states that the research involved ten studies involving 3,089,929 women, of whom 150,512 developed heart disease or stroke during an average follow-up of 6 to 52 years. Each birth was associated with a 4% higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, regardless of body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, and income level. Similar relationships were observed for different types of cardiovascular disease, with each live birth being associated with 5% and 3% higher risks of coronary heart disease and stroke, respectively.

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According to study author Dr Dongming Wang, of the School of Public Health, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, pregnancy may lead to inflammation in the body, and the accumulation of fat around the abdomen, in the blood, and in the arteries. These changes could have permanent effects on the cardiovascular system, leading to a higher risk of heart and stroke later in life. The researchers also say that more pregnancies could be increasingly risky.

How should pregnant women ensure good heart health

Of course, this doesn t mean that you can t take care of your heart if you are pregnant. In fact, Dr Wang says that pregnancy is a good time to get rid of bad lifestyle habits that could up the risk of heart diseases. This simply means that with good lifestyle practices, you can have a healthy baby and a healthy heart in the future. The heart works harder during pregnancy to meet the needs of the mother and foetus. But there is a lot that women can do to prevent cardiovascular disease.

For a healthy pregnancy and a healthy heart keep these tips in mind:

Quit smoking

Exercise regularly

Eat healthy food

Keep weight gain under control

After pregnancy, get more exercise to reduce abdominal fat, and watch the fat content in your diet to keep blood lipids at a healthy level.

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