More pregnant women die from heart attacks than from any other cause, according to a new study. In this video, Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart Healthy Life and Bottom Line’s “At the Heart of It All” blog, explains that pregnancy is the first metabolic stress test that many women face in their lives, so it can reveal an underlying heart issue. During pregnancy, the arteries need to dilate and supply blood to the growing fetus. But if these arteries are not healthy, other conditions such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and more can come to light. Fluctuating hormones also can cause a heart attack and related problems. In order to prevent these cardiac health concerns, Dr. Steinbaum suggests that women should approach pregnancy as if they were training for a marathon—taking diet, supplements, weight loss and exercise into account as they prepare for their baby’s birth. The healthier you are when you get pregnant, the less likely you are to have problems during the pregnancy. Obesity can increase risk factors, but being skinny does not make a woman immune to heart health issues when expecting. If you have any chest pain or shortness of breath while pregnant, be sure to speak with your doctor—it could mean the difference between life and death.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum is a cardiologist, author and spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign. She has devoted her career to treating heart disease through early detection, education and prevention. For more great tips from Dr. Steinbaum, check out her other videos and Bottom Line blog, At The Heart Of It All.

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