Hypertension and pregnancy


Roundup: Chronic Hypertension During Pregnancy has Doubled in U.S., NIH Reports; and More News

NIH Cites Concerning Trend: Chronic High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy Doubled in U.S. from 2008 to 2021

The prevalence of chronic hypertension (high blood pressure) in pregnancy doubled from 2008 to 2021 in the U.S., according to a study, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), of nearly 2 million pregnancies.

The research did not investigate the reasons for the increase. “But rising maternal age, growing obesity rates, and other factors likely played a role, according to researchers,” states the NIH in a news release.

Chronic hypertension in pregnancy is defined as having persistent high blood pressure — 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher — before pregnancy or within 20 weeks of gestation. “The condition can cause organ damage in the expectant mother and increase the risk of preterm birth or a low birthweight baby,” the NIH states. “It can be fatal if undetected and untreated.”

The study, which was funded by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), was published in the journal Hypertension. About 60 percent of those with chronic hypertension in pregnancy were treated with antihypertensive medications.

“These findings are deeply concerning because of the high rate of U.S. maternal mortality, which is linked to chronic hypertension in pregnancy,” said study lead Stephanie Leonard, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. “Despite the availability of safe and effective treatments for chronic hypertension, the study speaks to an urgent need for improvement in care for this serious condition.”

The study has particular relevance for Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native people, who experience the nation’s highest rates of poor maternal health outcomes and pregnancy-related deaths, states the NIH.

For the study, researchers focused on a database of U.S. commercial insurance claims from 2007-2021 to analyze the prevalence of chronic hypertension among 1.9 million pregnant women, ages 12-55 years old.

The researchers found the percentage of those pregnant who had chronic hypertension more than doubled — from 1.8 percent in 2008 to 3.7 percent in 2021. Among those with chronic hypertension, the percentage who used antihypertensive medication remained steady during the study period — rising from 58 percent to only 60 percent, the NIH said.

Study Confirms HPV Immunization Lowers Risk of Developing Head and Neck, Cervical Cancers

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, contributes to the development of certain types of cancer, prompting health officials to continue to urge parents to get their teens vaccinated against HPV. New research continues to bolster the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine.

The newest study involving 3.5 million participants confirmed that immunization lowers the chances of developing cancers caused by HPV – including head and neck cancer in men and boys, and cervical cancer in women and girls.

“We have known that the HPV vaccine decreases rates of oral HPV infection, but this study shows that in boys and men in particular, vaccination decreases the risk of HPV-related oropharyngeal head and neck cancers,” said Glenn J. Hanna, M.D., director of the Center for Cancer Therapeutic Innovation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in a news release by the American Cancer Society. “HPV vaccination is cancer prevention.”

The study findings were presented at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting this month. HPV is a common virus that is spread by skin-to-skin contact. Over time, some types of HPV can cause cells to grow out of control and turn into cancer.

Immunization against HPV is recommended for most people between the ages of 9 and 26, and people up to age 45 can be immunized. However, there are still many children and adults in the United States who have not received the two or three shots needed to be protected against cancer.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2022, less than 60 percent of children ages 15 to 17 had been vaccinated for HPV, suggesting that a large portion of the population is more vulnerable to HPV infection and, in turn, more vulnerable to the development of HPV-related cancers,” said lead study author Jefferson DeKloe, a research fellow at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a statement.

Researchers reviewed data from 3,413,077 people in the U.S., between the ages of 9 and 39, who had received an immunization between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2023. The study compared the rates of HPV-related cancer in people who had been immunized against HPV and those who had not. Their average age was 21 years.

The results: In men and boys who were immunized, there were 26 cases of HPV-related cancer. In comparison, there were 57 cases of HPV-related cancer among people who were not immunized. In women and girls who were immunized, there were 109 cases of HPV-related cancer. In comparison, there were 149 cases among people who were not immunized.

“Because many HPV-related cancers are more common in older adults, this research will continue to study what happens to people older than 39 years old,” states the news release by the American Cancer Society.

Replacing Time Watching TV With Even “Light Physical Activity” Can Lead to Healthy Aging, New Study Reveals

Replacing time spent watching television with just “light physical activity” is sufficient to improve your odds of healthy aging and living a longer life, according to a new study based on 20 years of data on 45,176 people. The odds get better with increased intensity of physical activity and less sedentary time, the research, published in JAMA Network, concluded.

“Approaches to achieve healthy aging, typically defined as being disease-free and physically, mentally, and cognitively healthy, are urgently needed,” the study’s authors state. “However, only 10 percent to 35 percent older adults achieve healthy aging.”

For the study, light physical activity involved walking around at home or at work at a normal pace. Moderately vigorous activity involves brisk walking or more intense aerobic exercise such as jogging, climbing stairs or cycling. 

The researchers defined “healthy aging” as living to at least age 70 maintenance with no major chronic diseases and “no impairment in subjective memory, physical function or mental health.”

Researchers from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health used data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which launched in 1992 and followed 45,176 participants for 20 years. At the beginning of the study, the average age of participants was 60, and they were all free of major chronic diseases. 

Among the study’s findings, there was a 12 percent decrease in the odds of healthy aging for each increase of two hours per day spent watching TV. However, for each increase of two hours per day of light physical activity, there was a 6 percent higher chance of healthy aging. And each increase of one hour per day of moderately vigorous activity was associated with a 14 percent improvement in odds of healthy aging.

Getting sufficient, healthy sleep also contributed to healthy aging. Among participants who slept seven hours per day or less, replacing television time with sleep was also associated with increased odds of healthy aging, the study states.

In their conclusion, the study’s authors state: “These findings complement previous evidence on the association between these behaviors and mortality, and provide important evidence for promoting active lifestyles for achieving optimal health at older ages.”

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