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Heart attacks during pregnancy on the rise

HOUSTON – There is an increase in heart attacks among pregnant women, according to one study. The Mayo Clinic said heart attacks are up 25 percent since 2002.

Doctors say it's important to recognize the symptoms, but they're often hard to identify.

Dr. Diana Racusin, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, who also sees patients at UT Physicians and Memorial Hermann, said due to more women coming into pregnancy with high blood pressure, obesity and older age, there is a higher risk of heart attacks happening in those cases.

“We have an obesity epidemic. We have sicker moms, we have patients that have diabetes, obesity, heart disease risk factors and these things aren't being recognized before they get pregnant and people walk into pregnancy with these risk factors,” Racusin said.

If those risk factors lead to a heart attack, then things get tricky.

“In women, heart attack symptoms are non-specific. So we're always taught substernal crushing chest pain, but they can have nausea, they can have vomiting, they can have dizziness, they can have abdominal pain, they can have weakness,” Racusin listed as heart attack symptoms during pregnancy.

Since those symptoms also go hand in hand with pregnancy, Racusin said it's critical for women be as specific and honest as possible about their medical history, where they feel pain, how bad it is. The key to identify heart problems or even survive a heart attack is catching it early, which means prenatal visits are necessary.

If your visit feels pointless, Racusin said it's an indication you're healthy.

“What patients don't always realize is behind the scenes were looking to make sure that 10,000 other things aren’t going wrong,” Racusin said. “If we find nothing wrong and it's a quick, boring visit, that's great!”

The maternal mortality rate in Texas is also on the rise. Click here for details.