Any woman can develop heart disease during or just after pregnancy. Your chances go up if you have certain risk factors, but the possibility is there no matter what, particularly if you are obese or overweight. Other risk factors include:
- Lack of physical activity
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes (or prediabetes)
- History of preeclampsia
Since heart disease is one of the leading causes of morbidity during pregnancy, or for women who have recently given birth, having these risk factors is concerning. Fortunately, you have the power to take charge of your pregnancy health.
According to the American Heart Association, almost a third of pregnancy-related events from heart disease are preventable.
- Maintaining Healthy Weight — This goes for before and during pregnancy. Find a fitness routine that you enjoy and that you feel you can stick to.
- Eat a Healthy, Pregnancy-Friendly Diet — It’s okay to give in to cravings, but to keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on making the bulk of your diet fresh, whole foods. A wide variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean protein-packed foods work for most of us in everyday life. However, when you’re pregnant, that requires certain adjustments, which brings up the next point.
- Talk to Your Doctor — Whether it’s about foods to eat during pregnancy or about your heart, your doctor is your best resource. It is particularly important that your doctor knows your personal and family medical history. This lets him or her pinpoint any history of heart disease, or related conditions like high blood pressure, that might predispose you to developing heart disease during your pregnancy.
Know where you stand. Address your personal risk factors for heart disease. Maintain a conversation with your provider, and if he or she deems it necessary, a cardiologist, throughout your pregnancy. If you develop heart disease while still pregnant or shortly after giving birth, you’ll be much more prepared.