Eliz Greene
Eliz Greene

A new study shows heart attacks in pregnant women are on the rise.

The good news in a new study by the New York University School of Medicine showing more pregnant women are having heart attacks is that data is being collected about heart disease in women.  If we can clearly define the problem, a solution is much more likely.  Organizations like the American Heart Association have worked hard to make sure women are included in heart disease studies, and studies like this one help decrease the number of deaths due to heart disease.

Should pregnant women be worried about heart attacks?

As I shared in this interview on CBS, pregnancy is like a months-long stress test.  During pregnancy the heart works harder. Many women are waiting to have children, and our risk of heart disease increases with age. Pregnancy hormones can increase other heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.  In preparation for birth, our blood gets stickier and more likely to clot.  Blood clots in the arteries leading to the heart can cause a heart attack.   In addition, weight gain, fluid retention, and inactivity can all strain the heart.

Should you be worried?  No, heart attacks in pregnant women are still rare, .009% of women have heart attacks.  Don’t let it keep you up at night.  BUT… don’t ignore the signs of heart attack – and do all you can to keep your heart healthy.

What should pregnant women do to protect their hearts?

Know the signs:

Before pregnancy:

  • Know your risk factors: Talk to your doctor about your family history of heart disease and find out if your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are within normal ranges.
  • Start early: In our teens and twenties we are laying the foundation for our heart health.  Managing your weight, not smoking, as well as keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar under control protects your heart and sets up a healthy pregnancy.

During pregnancy:

  • Know your numbers and be aware of changes.  Write down your normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar readings.  It is easy to lose track of these numbers.  Talk to your doctor about changes, even if they are small.
  • Pay attention to your body.  Heart burn is common in pregnancy, but intense burning, especially accompanied by vomiting is a reason for alarm.  Call your doctor if you have shortness of breath, pain anywhere in the torso, neck, or jaw, or tightness in the chest.  It is good news to find out you have heart burn – be safe and get checked.

After pregnancy:

  • Still pay attention: Your body undergoes huge changes in the months after delivery and your risk of heart attack is still higher.
  • Keep on top of your risk factors: Talk to your doctor about any changes in your levels.
  • Get some sleep and get moving:  We heal when we sleep, napping when the baby naps can allow you to recover and keep your blood pressure and stress level low.  Taking a walk every day also helps keep your levels low and is a great way to help your heart do its job.

Please use the comment section below to ask a question or share your experience.

Eliz Greene

About Eliz Greene

Eliz Greene survived a heart attack at age 35 while seven months pregnant with twins. Her down-to-earth strategies to manage stress and improve heart health and reduce stress are used by thousands of busy people all over the world. She is a motivational wellness speaker, author, and job stress researcher. Visit elizgreene.com to book Eliz for your next event.

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