PITTSBURGH (CBS) — When Anne-Marie Conlan was pregnant with her first child, she was rushed to the hospital at 37 weeks with pre-eclampsia.
“My blood pressure had elevated and was up at 160 or something,” said Conlan.
Pre-eclampsia is among the risk factors highlighted in the first-ever guidelines for preventing stroke in women.
“Women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy have a much higher risk of developing real hypertension, high blood pressure in later years and it increases the risk of stroke,” said Dr. Ileana Piata, of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Heart & Vascular Care.
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association emphasize women share many of the same stroke risk factors as men, but hormones, birth control, pregnancy and childbirth also play a role.
The guidelines also say diabetes, migraine, depression and stress seem to be stronger in women.
“Women tend to have more of what’s called endothelial dysfunction, which means the lining of the small vessels can be very reactive and those can react with emotional stress,” Dr. Ileana said.
Doctors say regular check-ups, a low-sodium diet and exercise go a long way in keeping women heart healthy.
“I work out four times a week,” Conlan said.
Conlan says she did not have pre-eclampsia during her second pregnancy and that her blood pressure is currently normal.
Doctors recommend that women with a history of high blood pressure consider low dose aspirin or other treatments before pregnancy to lower the risk of preeclampsia.
For more information, visit the American Heart Association’s website at this link.