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Placental Problems Linked to Heart Disease

U of T study led by Dr. Joel Ray of the department of medicine

Pregnant women who experience placental syndromes have double the risk of developing cardiovas­cular disease later in life, according to a U of T study led by Dr. Joel Ray of the department of medicine. This risk increases three- or fourfold if the fetuses experience impaired growth, or if there is fetal death.

Researchers studied more than one million Ontario women who were free from cardiovascular disease before their first delivery. While the increased cardiovascular risk is associated with pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, placental abruption or placenta infarction, the reasons for it aren’t yet certain. “It has nothing to do with the child that’s born, but it may reflect genetics or the lifestyle of the mom – or both,” says Donald Redelmeier, a professor in the general internal medicine division at U of T, and senior author of the paper published in The Lancet.

Affected women should have their blood pressure and weight assessed about six months after delivery, and practise a healthy lifestyle, says Redelmeier. They also should be checked for high blood cholesterol and high blood sugars – both of which can be treated after the mother has finished breastfeeding.

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