Preeclampsia: Pregnancy Complication Raises Heart Disease Risk

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 14, 2013

Preeclampsia in expectant mothers leads to high blood pressure.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Ellen Seely, Director of Clinical Research, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

Recently, the serious nature of preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy, was highlighted on the popular TV series, Downton Abbey. During an episode that aired in January 2013, Lady Sybil Crawley suffered complications from the condition before delivery and after giving birth. In expectant mothers, preeclampsia results in high blood pressure and increased levels of protein in the urine. In some severe cases, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia (seizures) and an increased risk of death.

Doctors have known about eclampsia for many centuries though its direct causes are unknown. The only cure for a mother-to-be remains delivery of her baby. In some serious cases, an early delivery, at times requiring Cesarean section, may be recommended, despite the health risks of a premature birth for the baby.

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Got Milk? – Helping Mongolian Children Live Healthier Lives

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 12, 2012

Janet Rich-Edwards’ research has taken her to Mongolia, where she studied vitamin D levels among children. Pictured is Janet holding a model of a yurt, a portable tent-like dwelling in which many Mongolians reside.

Janet Rich-Edwards, ScD, MPH, Director of Developmental Epidemiology in the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology is a lucky woman.  While many researchers never leave the laboratory or clinic, her work has taken her to one of the most scenic and remote areas of the world. Since 2004, Rich-Edwards has traveled to Mongolia, nicknamed “Land of Eternal Blue Sky”, to conduct research that has helped shape the country’s public health policies and improve the lives of its three million residents.

Her path to conduct research in Mongolia was an unexpected one.  Rich-Edwards wanted to study whether cow’s milk consumed by children affected their hormone levels and puberty. However, because dairy products are so widely consumed in the US, it wasn’t possible to find a comparison group of children who consume low amounts of dairy.

Instead, a colleague recommended that Rich-Edwards conduct her research in Mongolia, where there is a large population of children who tolerate milk but lack access to it. In the course of their research in Mongolian children, Rich-Edwards and her colleagues discovered that Mongolia has a high prevalence of rickets, a bone disorder caused by lack of vitamin D. They knew that this vitamin D deficiency was due to the extreme latitude where Mongolians live combined with an absence of vitamin D in their diets. Unlike developed countries like the US, foods such as milk and breakfast cereal have been not been fortified with vitamin D in Mongolia.

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