Increased risk of heart attack after a miscarriage

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According to a study by the German Cancer Research Center, the risk of heart attack increases in women after a miscarriage. Women who have already had three or more abortions are particularly at risk.

(2010-12-03) Women who have had a miscarriage suffer from an increased risk of heart attack. The risk is particularly high for women who have had three or more abortions (miscarriages). This is the conclusion reached by researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg when evaluating the medical data of over 11,500 women.

In a comprehensive study, researchers led by Elham Kharazmi from the German Cancer Research Center analyzed the medical data of 11,518 women who were pregnant at least once in their life. Around a quarter of the women (2,876) had at least one miscarriage, 69 had even suffered more than three miscarriages. The data of the women examined came from the EPIC study, a large European study with over 500,000 participants from ten countries to determine the influence of diet and lifestyle on cancer risk. In the ten statistically recorded years on which the current study by the German Cancer Research Center is based, 82 of the women had suffered a heart attack and 112 had a stroke, according to the Heidelberg researchers when their study was published in the journal "Heart". And while there was no statistical connection between the abortions and the strokes, the data analysis showed that miscarriages and stillbirths are associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack, the scientists from the German Cancer Research Center explained.

With every miscarriage, the risk of a later heart attack increased by about 40 percent, according to the study by the DKFZ. For women who have suffered more than three miscarriages, the risk even increases fivefold, the scientists continue. However, the abortions were not necessarily the cause of the heart attacks, experts from the DKFZ, but there were obviously factors that increase both the likelihood of a miscarriage and that of a heart attack. The women who had a miscarriage and a heart attack, for example, were on average thicker than the others and more often smokers or ex-smokers. Both of these are known risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and miscarriages, the Heidelberg researchers explained. In addition, the women who had stillbirth not only tended to have a higher body weight, but were also older, less educated, exercised less and had diabetes more frequently than average, according to the results of the data analysis in the current study. Repeated miscarriages could, according to the DKFZ researchers, serve as a kind of indicator for possible cardiovascular diseases in the future. The scientists advise the women affected to consider repeated miscarriages as clear evidence of an attacked cardiovascular system and to take intensive preventive measures.

However, according to the DKFZ scientists, other effects are also conceivable, in which the miscarriages are not only the consequence but also the cause of possible disorders of the cardiovascular system. For example, changes in hormone status due to prematurely terminated pregnancy could also play a role in the risk of heart attack. The miscarriages are also associated with an increased risk of certain infections that damage the vascular system and thus increase the risk of heart attack, the scientists explained. One aspect that is not highlighted in the current study by the DKFZ, however, is the impact of the psychological stress of the traumatic experience of a miscarriage on the individual risk of heart attack. For example, Thomas Buckley and his research colleagues from the University of Sydney recently demonstrated in a comprehensive grief study that grief over the death of a family member or life partner clearly increases the risk of heart attack. Here, an overview of the temporal relationship between heart attacks and miscarriages and a corresponding assessment by the experts within the scope of the current DKFZ study would certainly have been helpful in order to be able to assess to what extent mourning after a miscarriage increases the risk of heart attacks. (fp)

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