New grant to help identify pregnant women with higher risk of future heart disease

Michelle Putt Uncategorised

Congratulations to Associate Professor Lisa Moran and team for their recent Heart Foundation grant to improve screening and management of women with cardio-metabolic conditions during pregnancy.

Assoc. Prof Moran, a CRE HiPP Chief Investigator and Dietitian and Head of the Healthy Lifestyle Research Program with the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI), said the three-year grant would allow her research team to shine the spotlight on a number of health conditions pregnant women may face that are risk factors for heart disease in later life, and create pathways to provide lifestyle health support.

The research will focus on pregnant women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), hypertensive disorders, spontaneous preterm birth and fetal growth restriction, all of which are currently linked to future heart disease risk.

A/Prof Moran said a register to track and support women with GDM already existed, and her team’s research would leverage the programs already in place for this condition to see how they could be refined and expanded to suit pregnant women with other cardio-metabolic conditions.

“We know that the existing practises available through the gestational diabetes register aren’t followed optimally so we want to take the work already done to date and learn from it.

“Stakeholder relations and consumer input will be imperative throughout our study to ensure the findings we reach can be translated straight into practice to provide women the best opportunity to prevent future heart disease.”

More than 90 per cent of Australian women have one risk factor for heart disease and more than 50 per cent have two or more. Despite this, A/Prof Moran said the condition was “very, very under recognised” in women.

“Women don’t necessarily recognise themselves as being high risk for having heart disease if they have GDM or other pregnancy complications as a lot of these conditions are of great concern during pregnancy but disappear once the pregnancy is over,” she said.

“We hope our research will provide a way to help women identify early in their life that if they do have a potential tendency for future heart disease, there are things they can do early in life to help reduce that risk.”

“The focus is on prevention – we can work with women decades before the development of cardiovascular disease if we are able to provide the right systems of support at this really early stage.

“If we get this right, we can really improve public health and economic outcomes.”

A/Pof Moran acknowledged the multidisciplinary team involved the grant, who would each bring their unique expertise to different facets of the research.

“This really is a team effort where we’ve gathered experts in their field to deliver on the different phases of this grant,” she said.

The Chief Investigators are:

  • Associate Professor Lisa Moran, Dietitian and Head of the Healthy Lifestyle Research Program, MCHRI, Monash University; CRE HiPP Chief Investigator
  • Dr Kirsten Palmer: Head of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Monash Health, Monash University
  • Dr Siew Lim: NHMRC Early Career Researcher, Monash University; Dietitian; CRE HiPP Research Fellow
  • Dr Melinda Hutchesson: Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Daniel Rolnik: Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Monash Health; Senior Research Fellow, Monash University
  • Professor Helena Teede: Executive Director, Monash Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre; Director of MCHRI, Monash University; CRE HiPP Chief Investigator
  • Professor Steve Nicholls: Director of Monash Heart; Director of Cardiology, Monash University
  • Professor Ben Mol: Director of Evidenced based Women’s Health Care Research Group, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Monash University
  • Professor Greg Johnson: CEO Diabetes Australia

A/Prof Moran said the grant would entail four phases, with the aim of a clinical trial in the final phase that would see 320 pregnant women with one/some of the four cardiometabolic conditions recruited through Monash Health and supported into their postpartum period with lifestyle health programs aimed at reducing heart disease risk.

She also thanked the Heart Foundation for the grant.

“I think it’s fantastic that the Heart Foundation is recognising prevention work and not just established clinical disease. It’s also wonderful that the Heart Foundation has recognised implementation research and stakeholder engagement as we see these as imperative to making a tangible impact in the community.”