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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 May;20(5):695-701. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2010.2291. Epub 2011 Mar 31.

Making use of a natural stress test: pregnancy and cardiovascular risk.

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College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA.


The gestational period serves as a natural stress test that can be used to predict future cardiovascular health risks of female patients. Recent evidence confirms that mothers with hypertensive pregnancies have higher cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks compared to other women of similar age. In women with preeclampsia, those delivering before 37 weeks of gestation and mothers with recurring preeclampsia in subsequent pregnancies carry the greater risks. These sex-specific risks are of similar magnitude to traditional CVD risk factors, such as smoking and obesity. Unfortunately, none of the commonly used CVD risk stratification models make use of these sex-specific markers, which can powerfully predict future CVD outcomes. Because women have historically posed a greater diagnostic challenge than men in assessing CVD risks, better models for risk stratification in this sex group are needed. A history of hypertension in pregnancy should be included as a variable in cardiovascular risk stratification. In addition, screening women for a history of preeclampsia should become routine practice, with greater emphasis placed on therapies to modify adverse outcomes for these higher-risk women.

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