Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy Are Associated with Higher Risk of Vascular Dementia
Prior studies have suggested that women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Let’s look at some examples of what those two medical terms mean to better understand what this research means for you and me.
Examples of Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy
- Chronic hypertension (i.e., persistently high blood pressure, regardless of being pregnant or not)
- Preeclampsia (i.e., a sudden spike in blood pressure during pregnancy, which reduces blood supply to the fetus, along with kidney or other organ damage)
- Eclampsia (i.e., women with preeclampsia who develop seizures or fall into a coma)
- Gestational hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure only during pregnancy)
Examples of Cardiovascular Diseases
- Coronary heart disease (when the arteries cannot deliver enough oxygen to the heart)
- Stroke (when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced)
What New Information Does This Study Tell Us?
This study, a systematic review and meta-analysis of five prior cohort studies, tells us that women with a history of HDP also have an increased risk for dementia.
Dementia isn't just one disease. It's an umbrella term that covers a wide range of causes of progressive cognitive loss. Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, and other thinking abilities that interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia are the most common causes of dementia.
Compared to women without any type of HDP, women who have a history of HDP are estimated to be at a 38% higher risk of having any type of dementia and three times higher risk of specifically having vascular dementia (i.e., dementia due to prior strokes). These findings are in line with prior studies that have shown that women with HDP are at two to four times higher risk of having cardiovascular disease, compared to women without HDP history.
What Should I Do with This New Information?
While whether or not you develop other types of HDP are sometimes out of your control, you can purposefully avoid chronic hypertension and further risk of dementia by
- Being Physically Active
- Not Smoking
- Eating a Healthy Diet
- Keeping Yourself at a Healthy Weight
- Limiting How Much Alcohol You Drink
- Getting Enough Sleep
- Being socially active
- Evaluating and treating hearing loss
These steps will also help you not develop other risk factors for HDP, such as kidney and heart diseases.
Another result of this study showed that a woman’s family history may indicate if they are more likely to develop HDP and dementia. Ask your mother, or other women on your mother’s side of your family, if they experienced any hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
Talk to your doctor if you have one or more risk factor for a HDP to get the best care for you and your baby.