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Shining a light on women’s heart health


Women who have complications in pregnancy such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure are known to be at increased risk of heart disease later in life, new research has revealed.

The study of Victorian mothers by a team led by Cabrini Health’s Dr Swati Mukherjee found for the first time, that attending a female-specific heart clinic had the potential to improve long-term cardiovascular disease outcomes in women with past pregnancy‐related complications which put them at a high risk for heart disease.

Dr Mukherjee said women in the study, aged between 30 and 55 years, attended a multidisciplinary women’s heart clinic at Cabrini Health and The Alfred where they had checks including blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Exercise, diet and lifestyle were also addressed.

The 150 women involved all had a past diagnosis of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, gestational diabetes, or a small‐for‐gestational age baby born at Cabrini and other hospitals in Melbourne’s southeast.

“Heart checks happen during pregnancy, but often taper off after that.

“The call to action is for women who have had these pregnancy complications to be followed up regularly post pregnancy.”

Dr Mukherjee said 40 per cent of the mothers were found to have underlying health issues that they were unaware of.

“Significantly, we found a large number of the women had untreated hypertension (blood pressure) and hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol),” Dr Mukherjee said.

Three per cent of the cohort were also unaware they had diabetes.

“We know these findings translate into a much higher than average risk of heart attacks,” Dr Mukherjee said.

“I think we underestimate as a community that heart disease takes three times as many lives of women as breast cancer.”