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ABCNews.com: Obesity Crisis Is Worsening Heart Disease Risks During and After Pregnancy

ABCNews.com recently interviewed Natalie Bello, MD, MPH, director of Hypertension Research and associate professor of Cardiology in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, about the link between obesity, pregnancy complications and heart disease.

According to a report from the American Heart Association, people with obesity who develop complications during pregnancy—such as diabetes, hypertension and preeclampsia—run a higher risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke. In fact, a recent study showed that these problems may have a lasting impact on a person’s health long after delivery.

Bello explained the importance of receiving preventive care before conceiving a child to lower the risk of cardiac complications.

"Pregnancy may be the only time someone gets medical care," Bello told ABCNews.com. "At that point they may not realize they carry a large risk, like obesity, for heart disease and complications during their pregnancy, so it is best to be screened early on in life to protect them during pregnancy and across the lifespan for their and their family's heart health."

Heart disease is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths, especially among Black women. Bello told ABCNews.com that there is a “growing awareness” of the issue but still plenty of work to be done. “We need to address the issues surrounding social and systemic barriers these women are faced with,” she said.

Bello recommends women maintain a healthy lifestyle and get regular checkups as precautions to avoid developing heart disease.

"Blood pressure screening, a healthy weight, good sleep hygiene, are some examples someone can take to assure they are at a good place in regard to their heart health," Bello told ABCNews.com. "The next steps would be to check how to maintain these healthy parameters so they can go into their pregnancy heart healthy for themselves and their baby."

Click here to read the complete story from ABCNews.com.