DALLAS (CBS Houston) – According to a new study, women who have four or more children are more likely to have heart disease.
Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center wanted to determine if the number of live births is associated with signs of cardiovascular disease.
“This is not a recommendation for women to only have two or three children,” Monika Sanghavi, M.D., chief cardiology fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that the changes associated with pregnancy may provide insight a woman’s future cardiovascular risk and deserves further attention.”
Researchers analyzed data from the Dallas Heart Study. Over 1,600 participated in that study. The average age at the time of that study was 45. More than half the women were African-American.
The researchers found that women who had given birth to four or more children had an increased risk of having abnormal coronary artery calcium or aortic wall thickness.
The same held true when researchers adjusted for other factors such as socioeconomic status, education, race, and factors known to heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease. They found that women who had more babies were more likely to be older, Hispanic, have high blood pressure, higher body mass index, and lower socioeconomic status.
It was also found that women who had zero to one baby were also more likely to show evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis.
Pregnancy can cause changes to a women’s cardiovascular system.
“Pregnancy has been called ‘nature’s stress test,’ and for good reason.” Sanghavi said. “It may also help identify women who are at increased risk for heart disease, even though right now they may not have any risk factors.”
Sanghavi suggest this study can be used to better estimate future risk of heart disease and to also monitor patients more closely to try and prevent future heart disease.
“The benefit of pregnancy is that it occurs relatively early in a women’s life and allows for early intervention for those at higher risk,” Sanghavi added.
The average women have two to three children, according to the U.S. Census.
The authors know more research needs to be done to confirm the association and hopes that others will explore their findings.
The findings will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.