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Hypertension During Pregnancy Could Increase Risk of a Future Stroke

Update Date: Oct 19, 2013 11:01 AM EDT

Chronic illness, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can increase one's risk of several health complications, such as heart disease. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of hypertension for pregnant women. The research team reported that pregnant women who have high blood pressure could be at a greater risk of suffering from a stroke in the future.

"We've found that women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy could be at higher risk of stroke, particularly if they had pre-eclampsia, which is a more severe form of high blood pressure," stated Dr. Aravind Ganesh, a neurology resident at the University of Calgary. "The elevated risk of stroke could be as high as 40 per cent."

Ganesh, who worked with medical student, Neha Sarna, internal medicine resident, Dr. Rahul Mehta and stroke neurologist, Dr. Eric Smith reviewed previous studies that looked into the risk factors of having high blood pressure during pregnancy. These studies had monitored women anywhere between one and 32 years after their pregnancies. Based from these studies, the researchers concluded that there was enough evidence to suggest that having hypertension during pregnancy increased one's risk of stroke.

"Hypertension is the most important risk factor for stroke," said Dr. Michael Hill, co-chair of the Canadian Stroke Congress. "Knowing your blood pressure may be one of the most important steps you can take to reducing stroke risk, something that is particularly true among women with a history of pregnancy-associated hypertension."

Although researchers and doctors are not sure what causes hypertension during pregnancy, several experts have reasoned that some women might be predisposed to this particular health condition and getting pregnant might bring it out. Regardless, the study's authors stress that women monitor their blood pressure to reduce their risk of stroke.

"It's important for women to be aware of their blood pressure, and potential changes to it, during pregnancy," added Ian Joiner, director of stroke at the Heart and Stroke Foundation according to a press release. "An increase is an indication that they should to talk to their doctor about their risk factors and overall vascular health. The bottom line is that it's important that women with pregnancy-related hypertension routinely monitor their blood pressure throughout their lives."

The study was presented at the Canadian Stroke Congress.

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