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Study finds infertility history linked with increased risk of heart failure

A new study finds that a history of infertility is associated with an increased risk of heart failure. Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) revealed that women who had experienced infertility had a 16 per cent increased risk of heart failure compared with women who did not have an infertility history. “We are beginning to recognize that a woman’s reproductive history tells a lot about her future risk of heart disease,” says first author Emily Lau, MD, MPH, cardiologist and director of the Menopause, Hormones and Cardiovascular Clinic at MGH. “Whether a woman has difficulty becoming pregnant, what happens during her pregnancies, when she transitions through menopause all influence her risk of heart disease later in life.

“Infertility affects about 1 in 5 US women and includes a spectrum of conception difficulties, but its link with heart failure has not been well-studied until recently. Infertility is the inability of a sexually mature adult to reproduce by natural means Partnering with the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which was designed in the early 1990s and queried a woman’s reproductive history, Lau and colleagues studied postmenopausal women from the WHI and examined whether infertility was associated with development of heart failure. There are two types of heart failure: heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) and heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF). 

Ejection fraction is a measurement related to the volume percentage of blood that is pumped from the left ventricle of the heart during each beat. An ejection fraction less than 50% is commonly viewed as abnormal or reduced. The team found an association between infertility and overall heart failure, specifically with HFpEF, a form of heart failure that is far more common in women regardless of fertility history. Among the 38,528 postmenopausal women studied, 14 per cent of the participants reported a history of infertility.

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