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Arnold School of Public Health

New EXSC faculty member Abbi Lane-Cordova dedicated to helping women with pregnancy complications protect their long-term health

November 10, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, 

Nearly everyone in Abbi Lane-Cordova’s family has some form of heart disease, so studying how exercise can prevent cardiovascular problems seemed like a logical career path for the assistant professor of exercise science. It was while she was studying exercise physiology during her doctoral program that she refined her focus.

“My sister became pregnant and asked me about exercise and blood pressure during pregnancy,” she remembers. “I realized I had no answers for her and began to look into the subject. I've been intrigued by the lasting effects of pregnancy on blood pressure and vascular function ever since.”

Lane-Cordova’s research focuses on understanding the processes underlying the increased long-term heart disease risk in women who have experienced certain pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure. According to existing research, women who develop these adverse pregnancy outcomes are nearly four times more likely to develop high blood pressure in the next 10-14 years and face an increased risk of early heart disease—even if they were previously healthy and even if their blood pressure returns to normal levels after delivery.

“The reasons for the increased risk are partially explained by traditional heart disease risk factors such as obesity and elevated blood pressure,” says Lane-Cordova. “But it also seems that unresolved, undetected vascular dysfunction that began during pregnancy can persist after delivery and contribute to elevated risk for early heart disease.”

Lane-Cordova began studying exercise physiology as an undergraduate at the University of Florida where she also earned a master’s in human performance. She spent the next four years working as a professional in the field, holding roles such as exercise physiologist and aquatics programmer at McConnell Heart Health Center in Columbus and assistant director for campus recreation at both the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

She then earned a Ph.D. in kinesiology and nutrition from the University of Illinois followed by four years of postdoctoral training. Lane-Cordova’s first two-year fellowship focused on health and human physiology at the University of Iowa and was supported by a National Institutes of health T-32 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship award. She received an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to support her second position, this time studying preventive medicine at Northwestern University.

With 34 peer-reviewed publications to her name, Lane-Cordova joined the Arnold School’s department of exercise science this year. “The Arnold School has a fantastic reputation and many productive faculty members,” she says. “I was excited about being able to learn from the faculty here and develop a complementary research niche in a supportive environment.”

“Abbi is a tremendous addition to our exercise science faculty,” says department chair James Carson. “She brings outstanding training in both physiology and epidemiology. Her multidisciplinary background lends to cross cutting research approaches that are needed to examine today’s complex health issues. Furthermore, her research expertise examining blood pressure problems with pregnancy is a great fit with several of our established faculty and will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the health of women and children nationally and here in South Carolina.”

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