Black Women at Higher Heart Risk During Pregnancy

WEDNESDAY, December 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Although heart problems are rare complications of pregnancy, black women face an increased risk – even if they have comfortable incomes and health insurance, according to a new study.

It is well established that the United States has a higher maternal mortality rate than other wealthy countries and that black women are at greater risk than white women.

Less is known that black women have a higher risk of cardiovascular problems associated with pregnancy. These complications – although rare – include serious conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, blood clots in the lungs and cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle.

The new study shows that indeed, black women are disproportionately affected.

The absolute numbers are low and women shouldn’t be alarmed, said lead researcher Dr. Samir Kapadia, president of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Pregnancy is still extremely safe,” he says.

But, Kapadia added, it’s important to know where the racial disparities exist and to try to understand why.

“What’s a little surprising,” he said, “is that socio-economic factors don’t explain it.”

Even when researchers compared relatively high-income black women with low-income white women, black women still had a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots.

The results were similar when black women with private health insurance were compared to uninsured white women.

But if the reasons for the disparity are not clarified, doctors should be aware of it, Kapadia said.

In general, he says, women who develop cardiovascular complications during or after pregnancy have warning signs. They include gestational high blood pressure (related to pregnancy) and diabetes, and preeclampsia – a complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to organs such as the kidneys or liver.

Women with these conditions should see their doctor regularly after giving birth, according to Kapadia. But as new moms focus on their newborns, their own health care can be left behind.

“We also need to pay attention to the health of mothers,” Kapadia said.

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Jothi Venkat

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