Black women at higher heart risk during pregnancy

WEDNESDAY, December 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) – While heart problems are serious heart problems, black women are at greater risk – even if they have a comfortable income and health insurance, study finds new.

It is well proven that the United States has a higher maternal mortality rate than other rich countries, and black women are at greater risk than white women.

Little was known about whether black women in particular are at higher risk of pregnancy-related cardiovascular problems. These complications – although rare – include severe conditions such as heart attack, stroke, blood clots in the lungs and cardiomyopathy, weakening of the heart muscle.

The new study shows, of course, that black women are disproportionately affected.

Overall numbers are small, and individual women should not be intimidated, said senior researcher Dr. Samir Kapadia, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Pregnancy is still extremely safe,” he said.

However, Kapadia added, it is important to know where racial differences exist, and to try to find out why.

“The surprising part is,” he said, “socioeconomic factors have not explained it.”

Even when researchers compared black women with relatively high incomes to white women with low incomes, black women had even higher risks of heart attack, stroke and blood clots.

The results were similar when black women with private health insurance were compared to white women without insurance.

But while the reasons for the difference have not been slowed down, doctors need to be aware of it, Kapadia said.

In general, he said, women who develop cardiovascular problems during or after pregnancy have warning signs. They include high gestational hypertension (associated with obesity) and diabetes, and preeclampsia – a problem characterized by elevated blood pressure and signs of organ damage such as the kidneys or liver.

Women with these conditions need to see their doctor regularly after giving birth, according to Kapadia. But as new moms focus on their newborns, their own health care may fall apart.

“We need to pay attention to maternal health as well,” Kapadia said.