A recent study published by Harvard-affiliated researchers in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that infertility in women was linked to a 16% increased risk of heart failure.
The study – led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital with support from the American Heart Association and the National Institute of Health – analyzed data from more than 35,000 postmenopausal women.
Researchers found a statistically significant link between history of infertility and risk of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, HFpEF, but no such link was found between infertility and heart failure. cardiac with a reduced ejection fraction, HFrEF.
Although HFpEF and HFrEF are both forms of heart failure, HFpEF differs from HFrEF in the amount of blood pumped from the left ventricle of the heart per beat, or ejection fraction. The difference in ejection fraction lends itself to a difference in risk factors and mortality rates.
Emily S. Lau, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the study’s first author, said researchers don’t understand why HFpEF “is incredibly prevalent in women,” adding, “we don’t have good therapies. for this type of heart failure”. .”
Lau said there’s “a big black box” around infertility research, even though national estimates show about 15% of American women suffer from infertility.
Researchers have done work in the past that has shown a link between infertility and cardiovascular disease, according to Lau. Before the new study was published in JACC, however, Lau said “the surveys had been very small and the data was really quite mixed.”
“There’s a lot of room for investigation,” Lau said. “Trying to relate a woman’s reproductive history to her future risk of cardiovascular disease – particularly with this form of heart failure – is really important to me and, I think, something that will guide the clinical practice of many cardiologists and primary care physicians.”
“In fact, as a medical community, we need to ask our patients about their reproductive history in a systematic way,” Lau added.
Lau said she and other researchers are interested in understanding the mechanisms behind the link between infertility and heart disease risk.
“I think we have a long way to go to better understand this relationship,” Lau said.