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Women who develop preeclampsia, a condition of high blood pressure in pregnancy, are likely to have thickening in their heart's left ventricle, thus impairing the function of heart after delivery, a study has showed.

Preeclampsia -- estimated to affect two to eight per cent of all pregnancies globally -- usually occurs in the second half of the gestation period. 

But the findings showed that in women who suffer preeclampsia early before the 34th week of pregnancy, the risk of left ventricular hypertrophy is more. 

This occurs when the heart's left pumping chamber thickens, which makes it more difficult for the heart to pump efficiently.

"Women with early-onset preeclampsia have the greatest risk to develop cardiovascular disease later in life," said GianLuca Colussi, Assistant Professor at the University of Udine in Italy. 

Further, women with preeclampsia also were more likely to have changes to the left ventricle resulting in diastolic dysfunction, which compromises the heart's ability to relax and fill with blood.

These changes were much like those commonly seen in chronic hypertensive patients at elevated risk of cardiovascular disorders, the researchers said.

The study highlights that pregnant women with preeclampsia and their doctors should be aware of elevated cardiovascular risks that can occur after delivery.

"These women should be screened for major cardiovascular risk factors and prevention strategies should be implemented as soon as possible," Colussi said. 

"We've shown that women with early onset preeclampsia might be at even greater risk, suggesting preventive interventions, such as using medications that act on left ventricular remodelling," Colussi noted.

For the study, presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Council on Hypertension Joint Scientific Sessions 2017 in San Francisco, the team examined the heart structure and function of women one month after delivery.