The finding affects as many as one in 10 women. It means that the 5% to 10% of women who have preeclampsia in their first or later pregnancies must take steps to reduce their risk of heart disease. It could be fatal for them to smoke, become obese, or fail to treat high blood pressure or diabetes.
The latest data linking preeclampsia to heart disease and stroke come in a report given at this week's meeting of the European Society of Cardiology by Risto Juhani Kaaja, MD, of Helsinki University Hospital in Finland.
"Preeclampsia is a state of loss of insulin action -- insulin resistance -- which can still be observed 17 years after preeclamptic pregnancy," Kaaja says in a news release. "The tendency to loss of insulin action may persist for a woman's whole life."
Similar Causes for Preeclampsia and Heart Disease
To tease out the connection, Kaaja and colleagues looked at 141 women under the age of 65. All were mothers, and all had heart disease. The researchers also looked at mothers who did not have heart disease.
As might be expected, the women with heart disease were more likely to smoke, more likely to be obese, and more likely to have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol levels. They were also more likely to have had preeclampsia during at least one pregnancy.
Nobody's sure exactly why some women get preeclampsia and some don't. But the things that increase a woman's risk of preeclampsia also raise her risk of heart disease and stroke:
"It is important to advise women with preeclampsia to avoid obesity and to stop smoking," Kaaja suggests.