Black women more likely to develop weakened heart muscle at childbirth

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Washington, Feb 23 (ANI): A new study suggests that black women are at an increased risk of developing weakened heart muscle at childbirth.

The study looking into the incidence of peripartum cardiomyopathy in women who gave birth at a Medical College of Georgia's teaching hospital between July 2003 and July 2008, found that while 55 percent of the women were white, 93 percent of those who developed cardiomyopathy were black, according to Dr. Mindy B. Gentry, an MCG cardiologist.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy typically occurs in the last month of pregnancy or the first few months after delivery. Symptoms include shortness of breath, particularly when lying down, as excess fluid congests the lungs and the rest of the body. The suffocating backlog is caused by an enlarged, stiff heart muscle that no longer pumps efficiently.

Gentry, a corresponding author on the study, said: "When it hits, it's totally unexpected because these are young, otherwise healthy women with young children. (They aren't patients) you'd expect to have any sort of health problem much less heart failure."

Gentry said other risk factors include hypertension, being unmarried, smoking during pregnancy and having more than two previous pregnancies, but African-American race was the most important predictor.

Two previously published studies from Haiti and South Africa found a higher incidence of peripartum cardiomyopathy than in other parts of the world but essentially all the participants were black. The heterogeneous population giving birth at MCGHealth Medical Center made it easier to assess the effect of race, Dr. Gentry noted.

The study has appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. (ANI)

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