Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S, and the really scary part is that often, the symptoms of heart disease are invisible—until they aren't. In fact, hypertension, a contributing factor in heart disease is commonly referred to as "The Silent Killer." During certain stages of life, like pregnancy or menopause, some women are at an increased risk for heart disease due to changes in hormones and other processes. When you’re pregnant, your heart health is especially important—for you and your baby. Together, we must better understand the effect this disease has on women, and work to prevent it.
If you’re thinking about having children, there’s no better time to start paying attention to your heart health. Upon getting pregnant, less than half of women in the U.S. have a healthy heart, and this can have dangerous consequences. Heart disease is the number one cause of maternal death in the U.S., and can also have effects on your health later in life.
In order to protect yourself, make sure that you’re paying attention to your heart health during, after, and even before getting pregnant. If you’re thinking about starting a family, make sure that you work with a trusted healthcare professional who can help you understand your unique risk factors for heart disease. If you’re at high risk due to something like high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking, you can make lifestyle changes before you get pregnant so you can lessen your risk. Staying active, eating a nutritious diet, and getting enough sleep can all help keep your heart healthy.
While you’re pregnant, continue to take part in physical activity and eat nutritious foods to the best of your ability. You can, and should, check with your provider about the level of exercise that’s safe and comfortable for you. This might change throughout your pregnancy, so it’s important to have frequent prenatal checkups to keep your OB up to date.
Consistent checkups are incredibly important. At your checkup, your OB will check your blood pressure, weight, and test for diabetes and infection. If you already have heart problems or are at high risk for heart disease, these visits will help you and your provider stay on top of them. You can also talk with your doctor about any medications that you have been taking, and make sure you’re on the right regimen for you and your baby.
If you’re someone who’s at high risk for high blood pressure disorders like preeclampsia, you can monitor your blood pressure at home to make sure it’s within a healthy range. Blood pressure cuffs are inexpensive and carried at most retail stores. Some, can even connect to an app on your smartphone, like the Delfina Care app. Through the app you can track your blood pressure data over time and share that information with your provider. Delfina also keeps your doctor up to date on any risk for gestational diabetes or other metabolic health problems, all of which contribute to keeping your heart healthy.
Heart disease is known as “The Silent Killer,” but it doesn’t have to be. Today, we encourage you to join our Delfina Pod, the American Heart Association, and women everywhere on National Wear Red Day as we Go Red for Women to raise awareness around the importance of keeping our hearts healthy and safe—in all stages of life. Learn more about Go Red for Women.