Women who give birth to five or more children have a higher risk for heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and are less likely to be physically active, according to a recent study.
The finding comes from medical record and survey data collected from 3,430 women who participated in the NHLBI-funded Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) between 2000 and 2002. Each participant reported their number of live births, which included births by Caesarean section.
Researchers assigned a heart health between 0 and 2 for each established risk factor of cardiovascular disease, including smoking, physical activity, body mass index, diet of heart-healthy foods, blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood sugar to make a total hearth health score of 14 points. A score of 0 correlated with poorer measurement of each risk factor while a score of 2 was the best performance for each factor.
The majority of women scored 8 or fewer total points and were considered to have an “inadequate” heart health score. The heart health score was on average lower for women with a history of more live births. After standardizing the data, researchers found that women with five or more births were 50% less likely to have an optimal heart health score.
The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It was funded by NHLBI.