Research & Education

Preeclampsia increases risk of CVD later in life

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology confirmed that women are at an elevated risk of developing a diverse range of cardiovascular conditions such as valvular heart disease and coronary artery disease, as well as accelerated cardiovascular aging if they had preeclampsia in at least one pregnancy, compared with women who did not have gestational hypertension. Moreover, the increased risk persists long-term, well into their sixties, and is largely associated with chronic hypertension later in life.

Over 220,000 women were recruited for this study and were followed for a median of seven years. The researchers found that, of these women, 1.3% (2,808) had a history of hypertensive disorder of pregnancy (HDP), experienced greater stiffness in their arteries, and had 2-5 times the rate of chronic hypertension later in life across age groups compared with women who did not have HDP. Until now, research did not show any correlation between heart failure and two other valvular diseases and hypertensive pregnancies. This current study confirms that those with HDP are more likely to develop cardiovascular conditions over time, including coronary artery disease. Shockingly, between one-half to one-third of cardiovascular risk was driven by chronic hypertension, and, according to one of the primary researchers, the results imply “that treating high blood pressure may be especially important in this population”.

Sadly, many young adults who have high blood pressure have not been diagnosed, and those who have often do not have it properly controlled, which increases cardiovascular risk at a very young age. A recent study provided by the American Heart Association showed that young, black adults have a much higher risk of hypertension than Mexican Americans and white adults. They emphasized that it is critical for health care practitioners to properly screen their patients, especially pregnant women, for high blood pressure, and to inquire as to whether their female patients had HDP. Risk factors for hypertension increase in those who are sedentary and who consume nutrient-poor, calorie-rich, processed foods, are obese, drink excess alcohol, smoke, and in those with diagnosed diabetes and hypercholesterolemia.

Along with maintaining a healthy, whole food diet abundant in colorful vegetables and fruits, moving daily, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight, there are several specific nutrients that have been shown to help support vascular health and normal blood pressure levels. Although taking anti-hypertensive medications may be effective at addressing high blood pressure, there are often undesirable side effects, especially during pregnancy, as they deplete several critical vitamins and minerals. There are specific nutrients and herbs that have been shown to play a critical role in the maintenance of normal blood pressure levels and promote overall cardiovascular health.

Dried bonito powder is a unique ingredient that is sourced from dried smoked fish native to Japan. Bonito peptide has been shown to have inhibitory effects on the angiotensin-converting enzyme-I (ACE) and has been stated by researchers to have antihypertensive properties. Grape seed extract (GSE) is another compound high in bioactive polyphenol content that has been shown to significantly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Other key nutrients to help support healthy blood pressure include potassium, L-arginine, vitamin B6 and taurine.

Additionally, it’s important to ensure pregnant women and those looking to conceive be on a high-quality prenatal multivitamin and mineral supplement, vitamin D, omega-3 fish oils, and probiotics to support the overall health of the mother and baby.