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Local mom warns against risk of heart attack during pregnancy

NOW: Local mom warns against risk of heart attack during pregnancy

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FOX POINT, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Fox Point mother Eliz Greene had a heart-attack 18 years ago while she was pregnant and on bedrest with her twin daughters.

"I got up and was taking a shower when I had just a burning pain in my chest," Greene said. "In a period of a very few minutes, it went from what started like heartburn to intense pain and I started to throw up and I knew I was in real trouble."

Greene did not know it right away, but she was having a heart attack.

"They did an emergency C-section and immediately started fixing my heart," she said.

Greene is not alone. A new study out of NYU shows more women are having heart attacks during or shortly after pregnancy.

The study found a 25% increase in women from 2002 to 2014, with heart attack risk the highest for pregnant women over 40 years old.

"Your cardiovascular, heart and lung, system makes a lot of changes while you're pregnant," Dr. Renee Zimmermann, an OBGYN with Ascension St. Joseph Hospital, said. "You have increased hypercoagulability meaning blood clots are more likely to form, increasing your chance for cardiac outcomes."

The study finds high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and a woman's age can also increase the chance of a heart-attack. Greene was 35-years-old when she had her heart-attack.

"When we do get pregnant it's like a month long stress test," Greene said. "That makes the body work really hard, so if anything is going to happen during that time where our body is working for two, or in my case three, that's when something might happen, so paying attention is really important."

While you can't control your age, Dr. Zimmermann says there are things you can do to reduce your risk of a heart attack during pregnancy.

"Watching our weight, being as healthy as we can with our diet and exercising, and then helping decrease our chance of having high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, not smoking. These are really important things," Dr. Zimmermann said.

18-years later, Greene and her daughters are now healthy and happy, but she is now committed to encouraging women to pay attention to their bodies

"When there is something odd, whether that's a heart burn that just doesn't feel like a heartburn, or a pain somewhere that you just can't explain, trouble breathing when you lay down, anything that's out of the ordinary...even when you're pregnant... make sure you talk to your doctor about it," Greene said.

Even though there are now more heart-attacks in pregnancy than in years past, it is still very rare, Dr. Zimmermann said.

She says controlling your risk factors---like your cholesterol, your weight, and not smoking---not only will you reduce your chance of a heart attack, but also lower your risk for more common pregnancy conditions like placental abruption and pre-eclampisa.

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