WOMEN who become pregnant aged 40 or older are at greater risk of a stroke or heart attack, warns new research.
The study suggests that health problems related to pregnancy can occur years after giving birth.
And researchers say their study is especially relevant with more and more women choosing to start families later in life.
The researchers studied data from more than 72,200 women aged between 50 to 79.
Of these women, who were all enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Study, 3,306 had pregnancies at an advanced age.
The researchers then compared rates of stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular death over the next 12 years with women who fell pregnant at a younger age.
Researchers studied data from more than 72,200 women aged between 50 to 79
They found that the most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke – caused by a clot – went up from 2.4 per cent to 3.8 per cent.
Risk of a haemorrhagic stroke, caused by a bleed in the brain, doubled from 0.5 per cent to one per cent.
The risk of a heart attack increased from 2.5 per cent to three per cent and death from all forms of heart disease rose dramatically, from 2.3 per cent to 3.9 per cent.
When researchers checked for well-known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, they found these factors explained most of the higher risk the older pregnant women faced.
But the researchers said that these established risk factors did not explain the link between advanced age pregnancy and stroke caused by a brain bleed.
They stressed further research needs to be done.
Risk of haemorrhagic stroke caused by bleeding in the brain doubled from 0.5% to 1%
Professor Adnan Qureshi, of the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute in the US, said: “We already knew that older women were more likely than younger women to experience health problems during their pregnancy.
“Now, we know that the consequences of that later pregnancy stretch years into the future.
“Women with a late pregnancy need to be aware of their increased risk and take steps to improve their cardiovascular health.
Researchers say more needs to be done to explain the link between advanced age pregnancy and illness
“And their doctors need to remain vigilant years later in monitoring these women’s risk factors through physical examination and, perhaps more tests and earlier interventions to prevent stroke and other cardiovascular events.”
The findings were presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.