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Here’s why more pregnant women are having heart attacks, according to a new study

Heart attack risk among pregnant women has increased by 25 percent from 2002 to 2014

The risk of having a heart attack during pregnancy and labor is rising, according to a new report. 

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Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine recently conducted a study, published in the Mayo Clinics Proceedings, to determine the frequency of heart attacks among pregnant patients. 

To do so, they assessed more than 49 million births. Of the women who gave birth, more than 1,000 of them had a heart attack during their labor and delivery. More than 900 had a heart attack during their pregnancy, and nearly 2,400 women had a heart attack after giving birth.

They found that the risk of having a heart attack had increased by 25 percent from 2002 to 2014. Although they said the overall heart attack risk was low, they called the death rate “relatively high”at 4.5 percent.

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“Our analysis, the largest review in a decade, serves as an important reminder of how stressful pregnancy can be on the female body and heart, causing a lot of physiological changes, and potentially unmasking risk factors that can lead to heart attack,” senior author Sripal Bangalore said in a statement.

Although researchers are unclear why the risk of heart attacks among pregnant women has increased, they hypothesized that age could be a factor as more women are waiting to have children later in life. They noted that the risk rises as women get older. 

Women between 35 to 39 who become pregnant are five times more likely to suffer a heart attack, compared to a women in their 20s. And women in their early 40s are 10 times more likely. 

Furthermore, the researchers report more women are also obese and/or have diabetes, which increases the risk, and early detectors of heart damage have also improved.

“Our findings highlight the importance to women considering pregnancy to know their risk factors for heart disease beforehand,” coauthor Nathaniel R. Smilowitz added. “These patients should work out a plan with their physicians to monitor and control risk factors during pregnancy so that they can minimize their risk.”

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