According to new research by UT Southwestern Medical Centre, women who have given birth to four or more children are at higher risk of heart disease.

The study shows that women who have delivered more than four children are more likely to experience cardiovascular changes which are an indicator of the disease.

Dividing women into three groups: one or no live births, two to three live births and four or more live births, researchers discovered that women in the latter group displayed the highest coronary artery calcium score, which is an indicator of the disease before it manifests itself.

Commenting on the findings, lead author of the study, Monika Sanghavi, said: "This new study adds to a body of evidence that pregnancy, which generally occurs early in a woman's life, can provide insight into a woman's future cardiovascular risk."

One possible cause for this finding may be that women who have multiple pregnancies might have more visceral fat which is linked to increased coronary risks and diseases, while another potential cause may come down to the fact that higher cholesterol and blood pressure associated with pregnancy can lead to an increased risk.

Elaborating on this point, Dr. Sanghavi, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, said: "During pregnancy, a woman's abdominal size increases, she has higher levels of lipids in her blood, and higher blood sugar levels. Each pregnancy increases this exposure."

In addition to these findings, it was discovered that the group which exhibited the second highest coronary artery calcium level were the one to no live birth group.

Explaining this finding, Dr. Sanghavi said: "It's likely that there is a different mechanism for the increased risk at the low end. Some of these women could have some underlying disease that prevents them from carrying births to term and increases their risk for heart disease."

Commenting on the impact this study can have on screenings for heart disease, Dr. Amit Khera, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, said: "This study reminds us of the importance of taking a pregnancy history as part of cardiovascular disease screening."

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