Friday, February 26, 2010
Black women are at significantly increased risk for developing a potentially deadly weakening of the heart muscle around the time of childbirth
A study examining the incidence of peripartum cardiomyopathy in women who gave birth showed that while 55% of the women were white, 93% of those who developed cardiomyopathy were black. Other risk factors include hypertension, being unmarried, smoking during pregnancy and having more than two previous pregnancies, but African-American race was the most important predictor. Two previously published studies from Haiti and South Africa found a higher incidence of peripartum cardiomyopathy than in other parts of the world. Further research is needed to identify potential environmental and/or genetic factors associated with African descent that explain the increased risk, the researchers said. They have begun follow up studies looking for any racial differences in healthy hearts following delivery, such as how much blood is ejected with each beat. Black women also are at increased risk for abnormal increases in blood pressure, called preeclampsia, that can occur late in pregnancy.