Some pregnancy complications may signal a higher risk of health problems later in life, according to a heart specialist.
'Nature's stress test'
High blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes that develops during pregnancy usually gets better soon after delivery. But women who've had these conditions aren't off the hook, said Dr Monika Sanghavi, a cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas.
"These women are at higher risk for developing hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the future, and should be followed long term," Sanghavi said in a hospital news release.
Up to six percent of pregnant women develop diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes). Meanwhile, about seven percent of women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, according to the US National Institutes of Health.
"Cardiologists call pregnancy nature's stress test," said Sanghavi, who is also an assistant professor of internal medicine.
Healthy lifestyle adjustments
Pregnancy can be an early wake-up call, alerting women to their future risk for chronic health issues, she said.
Sanghavi suggested that this gives women the time and opportunity to make healthy lifestyle adjustments that could help protect their long-term health, such as:
- Losing extra pounds and maintaining a healthy weight
- Following a heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet
- Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily
- Scheduling routine check-ups
- Monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
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