Study: Poor heart health while pregnant could impact baby

February is American Heart month and a new report is looking at women's heart health during pregnancy. The report, which is a first of its kind, finds that less than 1 in 10 pregnant women have good heart health. The researchers say that the mom's poor heart health could have a lasting impact on the baby. NBC's Sarah Dallof reports.

(NBC News) — A first-of-its-kind report finds that less than one in 10 pregnant women have good heart health.

The new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at 1,000 expectant moms. Researchers found just five percent had high cardiovascular health, 60 percent were considered moderate and 35 percent were considered poor.

Doctors say that’s not only putting moms at risk, but also their unborn children.

“The maternal environment as the baby grows and develops can program the baby’s later cardiovascular health. You can think of it as writing a computer program that then runs through the baby’s life and determines the baby’s risk for cardiovascular disease as they become an adult,” said Dr. Amanda Marma Perak of Northwestern University.

Overall, researchers looked at seven key metrics: diet, exercise, weight, glucose, cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure.

“Overwhelmingly, it was diet and physical activity that were worse among pregnant women,” said Dr. Perak.

Health experts say expectant moms should speak to their doctors first, but generally, a diet high in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, along with moderate exercise, can help keep a heart healthy through pregnancy and beyond.

Heart health was worse among younger pregnant women, and African Americans; however, the study’s authors say more research is needed to understand why.