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Preeclampsia and Cardiovascular Health

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What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition that may occur during pregnancy, after week 20 of gestation. The main signs of preeclampsia are high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia can lead to serious complications, for both mother and baby, if not managed properly. Usually, preeclampsia resolves after delivery.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Task Force 2013, there is a clear association between preeclampsia and later-life diminished cardiovascular health.  The American Heart Association added preeclampsia to its list of risk factors for cardiovascular disease in 2011. Preeclampsia, particularly when combined with preterm delivery (delivery at <= 37 weeks of gestation), should be considered as a risk factor for later in life cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.

Is there something I could do to lower my risk if I had preeclampsia? 

There are some actions you can take to lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

For women with prior preeclampsia, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Task Force of 2013 recommends: 

  1. Maintain ideal body weight

  2. Engage in aerobic exercise regularly (5 times per week)

  3. Eat a diet high in fiber, vegetables and fruits and low in fat such as the DASH eating plan

  4.  Avoid tobacco

You can also read the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines on how to lower your blood pressure here . 

   5. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Task Force 2013, women who had preeclampsia and gave birth preterm, or had preeclampsia more than once, should get their blood pressure, lipids, fasting blood glucose, and body mass index checked every year. 

For a full evaluation of your personal risk and prevention plan please consult your health care provider.  To evaluate your personal risk, your provider will ask you for some additional information. This may include the number of pregnancies you had before, number of miscarriages you may have had, number of babies you had that were born 3 weeks or more before the due date,  your baby/ies birth weights and how many times you had preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or gestational hypertension. Your provider may also ask you about any chronic hypertension or chronic kidney disease you may have had in the past or present.