Women with four or more children at higher risk of heart disease

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It has been revealed that giving birth to four or more children can double the risk of heart disease in women.

After a woman has given birth three times, the risk of thickening arteries which could lead to a heart attack increases with each additional birth.

Certain aspects of pregnancy have been linked to heart disease and this prompted researchers to determine if the number of live births has any bearing.

Pregnancy starts a range of changes which place strain on the cardiovascular system of the woman. An example of this is that the volume of blood which is pumped through the heart is increased by 50%.

The new study was undertaken by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre and is the first of its kind to consider narrowing and hardening of the arteries which will lead to blood flow blockage, and possible heart attack or stroke.

The study involved 1644 women, with an average age of 45, from the Dallas Heart Study. Aortic wall thickness (AWT) and coronary artery calcium scores were measured to find out if the women showed signs of narrowing and thickening in their artery and heart walls. It was found that females who had given birth to four or more children had double the risk of abnormal AWT or CAC, compared to those who had undergone two or three births. Other factors of associated risk, such as race, education and socioeconomic status were taken into account.

The lead author of the study, Dr Monika Sanghavi, said that the findings of the study adds to other evidence which shows that changes during pregnancy can contribute to a woman’s future cardiovascular risk and attention should be given to it.

She stated that the findings are not a recommendation for women to only have two or three children.

It has been found that women who did not have children, or had a single child, were at the same health risk as those who had had four children. However, researchers believe that some women who fell into this group may have had an underlying condition which prevented from carrying a foetus to term. Polycystic ovaries increase the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure which could result in stroke or heart disease.

Image Credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1]

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