Chronic Disease and Reproductive Health

RokStoriesIn 2006, people with chronic diseases accounted for 84% of health care spending in the United States.

Chronic Disease and Reproductive Health

  • In 2006, people with chronic diseases accounted for 84% of health care spending in the United States.
  • Heart disease , cancer, and stroke are the three leading causes of death for women in the United States.
  • For women of reproductive age (ages 15–44 years), some of the most common chronic diseases are depression, hypertension (high blood pressure), and diabetes. Chronic diseases can be on-going such as diabetes or they can be reoccurring, such as with depression.
  • Among women of reproductive age, insufficient physical activity, poor diet, and smoking are common modifiable risk behaviors for chronic disease. Obesity, high cholesterol, and prediabetes are also common risk factors for developing chronic disease later in life. Eating more healthy foods and being physically active can help prevent the future development of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

The Effect of Hypertension and Diabetes During Pregnancy on a Woman’s Long-Term Health

  • Women who have gestational diabetes or hypertension during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases as they get older.
    • Up to 50% of women with a history of gestational diabetes may develop type 2 diabetes within five years of pregnancy.
    • Women with hypertension during pregnancy are about three times as likely to develop chronic hypertension and two times as likely to develop heart disease later in life. Women with severe preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine) are about six times as likely to develop chronic hypertension.

The Benefits of Reducing Risk for Chronic Disease Among Women of Reproductive Age

The following are examples of how women of reproductive age can benefit from reducing their risk for chronic disease:

  • If overweight and obese women reduced their weight to a normal level before pregnancy, the number of women with gestational diabetes could be reduced by almost 50%.
  • If all women were of normal weight, exercised daily, and maintained a healthy diet, the number of women with hypertension could be reduced by approximately 50%.
  • If clinic-based smoking cessation interventions were universally implemented for pregnant smokers, an additional 3.3% of pregnant smokers would quit.
  • If all pregnant smokers quit smoking, as many as 5%–8% of preterm infants, and 13%–19% of term low birthweight infants could be born a normal weight. In addition, as many as 23%–34% of infant deaths from SIDS and 5%–7% of infant deaths from preterm births could be prevented.