Hispanic women with five or more children are more likely to develop the heart condition ventricular diastolic dysfunction, compared to women who have fewer children. The findings were consistent as the number of children a woman had increased.
The new study, conducted by Wake Forest School of Medicine, found 85 percent of Hispanic women with more than 5 children had ventricular diastolic dysfunction. Sixty-one to 63 percent of women with 2 to 4 children had the heart condition, and it was also present in 51 percent of Hispanic women who had not given birth.
“Diastolic dysfunction is a sign of the heart stiffening — potentially leading to heart failure and chronic cardiac disease,” Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, who was not connected to the research, told HealthDay.
Women who have ventricular diastolic dysfunction experience an abnormal heart pumping cycle. According to the Texas Heart Institute, electrical signals in the heart muscle cause it to contract, pushing blood from the top chambers to the lower chambers. In people who have diastolic dysfunction, the lower chambers of the heart fail to relax while blood is being pumped into them.
This results in extra pressure and fluid build-up in the heart and lung vessels and is often a cause of heart congestion. During pregnancy, the body goes into a natural overload state, temporarily increasing the pressures within the heart. Multiple pregnancies can cause this condition to become chronic, weakening the heart valves with each birth.
Though the study indicates physicians should discuss heart health with Hispanic mothers, experts indicate more research is needed before general conclusions can be made among the Hispanic population. The next step will likely be to evaluate if all women, regardless of ethnicity, have the same heart complication issue with 5 or more pregnancies.
“[Hispanics] need to be counseled regarding the potential for heart failure with multiple pregnancies and the potential risks,” said study author Shivani Aggarwal in an American Heart Association press release. “Doctors also need to be aware of these statistics to diagnose and treat this issue early on.”