Starting a family? Here's why focusing on your heart health can be key

Women with healthy hearts are more likely to have a smoother birth and healthier baby, says study

Happy pregnant woman eats a bowl of colorful salad
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Many women and their partners will try to be more health-conscious after falling pregnant because they want to create a healthy environment for their new-born. However, new research has revealed why it's so important to optimize your health before becoming pregnant, with a special focus on the health of your heart.

You don't have to be a marathon runner to have a heart-healthy pregnancy and baby, but a combination of eating well and regular exercise, whether that's light resistance training with one of the best kettlebells or daily walking, will help to improve your heart health. This in turn can put the health of you and your future child at less risk.

A study published in the Circulation journal has elaborated on this after highlighting poor heart health puts pregnant mothers and their babies at risk, both during the birthing experience and later in life for mothers-to-be.

The researchers used a cross-sectional analysis of maternal birth records to reach the various findings. They found that heart disease is the culprit behind more than one in four pregnancy-related deaths. 

In addition to this, over half the women involved in the study had at least one risk factor for poor heart health. The risk factors included things like being overweight or obese, hypertension, or diabetes. The study authors stated that the most common factor for poor health pre-pregnancy was being overweight.

Woman enjoying a walk outside

(Image credit: Getty)

Lead study author, Dr. Natalie Cameron concluded, "Women with favorable heart health before pregnancy are less likely to experience complications of pregnancy and are more likely to deliver a healthy baby.

"Even more importantly, optimizing heart health before and during pregnancy can prevent the development of heart disease years later. Clinicians can play a key role in both assessing and optimizing heart health prior to pregnancy."

The researchers took into account that often pregnancies can be unplanned and this is another reason why optimizing your heart health from very early on is so beneficial.  

If you do happen to be planning on trying for a baby in the near future and are worried about your heart health, it's worthwhile consulting a doctor or other health care specialist before taking this step. They can help advise you on how to shape a healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant.

Boosting heart health and avoiding serious heart disease doesn't have to entail extreme changes. But taking care of what goes in your body is a good place to such as avoiding eating too much red meat. This is a good way to lower your cholesterol, helping to fight off heart disease. Leaner meats are a nice alternative, and you can always up your nutrients through eating more vegetable-based meals, using recipes from one of our best vegan cookbooks.

Exercise is a second great way to improve your heart health as well. Aerobic exercise helps improve circulation, this can then help to lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Running is an excellently effective form of aerobic exercise and it's completely free. Once you have a pair of the best running shoes for women you can jump straight outdoors for a jog or enjoy a run on one of the best treadmills from our guide.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.