Mums who have given birth to several children could have a quicker build-up of plaque in their neck arteries than women with less or no children, suggests a new study. So could this equate to being more likely to suffer a stroke? Researchers aren’t yet sure…
The finding does hint that there might be something about pregnancy itself that contributes to this build-up. This plaque build-up is found out by measuring the increase in intima-media thickness (IMT) of the carotid arteries in your neck. This is done by ultrasound. The IMT increase connected to one birth is about what would be seen over a year of normal aging.
“We think that some of the many biological changes that accompany pregnancy may be involved,” said lead researcher, Dr Michael R Skilton.
Dr Michael, from the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, explained that during pregnancy both blood cholesterol levels and resistance to insulin go up. Pregnancy also affects levels of hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone, and “creates a state of inflammation in the body” reports Reuters.
Previous studies have discovered that the more children you have, the higher your heart disease and stroke risk are later in life. That’s partially explained by weight and gain and lifestyle factors, but not entirely.
“Once we have identified the mechanism via which pregnancy can influence the health of the blood vessels we would like to see whether or not we can find prevention strategies that are suitable for use during pregnancy that could reduce the risks,” said Dr Michael.