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High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy Signals Later Heart Disease

Alison Wood |12, February 2013


During pregnancy, a woman's normal, healthy blood pressure readings can become elevated. Is this a cause for concern about the future health of these women? Some recent medical research says it is.

The American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, seeks to prove that even intermittent high blood pressure during pregnancy can be a precursor to heart and kidney disease.

Women with the life-threatening, pregnancy-related disease preeclampsia have already been warned that heart and kidney problems could develop later on in their lives. But, now doctors are becoming concerned with an elevated reading that shows its head during a routine medical check-up, and then returns to normal.

In a new study, medical researchers documented the pregnancies of Finnish women and followed their medical health later on in life. For 40 years, these women were researched and their health documented in order to provide a better understanding of the effects of intermittent high blood pressure, in what is considered otherwise, normal pregnancies. These were not high-risk women. Just average, healthy pregnancies. After 40 years of documenting, researching and comparing, here are the results of their intensive studies.

  • One-third of the studied women had at least one high blood pressure reading during their nine months of pregnancy.
  • Women who had any high blood pressure during pregnancy had 14 percent to over 100 percent higher risk of developing many kinds of heart disease later on in life when compared to women who sustained normal blood pressure readings throughout pregnancy.
  • The chances of a woman with any high blood pressure reading during pregnancy experiencing a heart attack later on in life was 2-5 times more likely.
  • Women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy and healthy blood pressure levels after pregnancy had a 1.6- to 2.5-fold higher risk of having high blood pressure that needed hospitalization or prescribed medications during the coming years.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy increased the risk of developing diabetes in the future.
  • Women who had transient high blood pressure with and without measurable protein in the urine had a 1.9- to 2.8-fold higher risk of kidney disease in later life, compared to women with consistent, normal blood pressure readings during pregnancy.

Women who have experienced any elevated blood pressure readings during pregnancy should let their primary care physical know their history of blood pressure. Patients may ask if they can receive comprehensive heart disease factor checks in order to lower their risks of developing serious health problems later on in life.

Medical researchers are now examining how lifestyle changes during the nine months of pregnancy can lower the risk of developing high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes and if they can change the future of these at-risk mothers for the better.

At the present, the majority of doctors are prescribing low-sodium diets, consistent and regular aerobic exercise, lower-fat diets, no smoking and less alcohol consumption to ensure a stronger, healthier body that is at a lower risk for developing these life-threatening diseases.

Here are some simple ideas to create a healthier you for a better future.

Drink it up.
Skip the high-calorie, caffeinated sodas and fill up on purified drinking water. This wonderful, natural drink has many benefits to your body and can lower sodium levels that often contribute to an elevated blood pressure reading.

Add some lemon.
Avoid salt, as many of the foods Americans consume already have more than the suggested daily amounts. For flavor without the sodium, try squeezing some fresh lemon juice and adding some sprinkles of black pepper. In addition, check your spices section in the grocery aisle for low-sodium seasonings to enhance the flavor of your meals without enhancing the consumption of sodium.

Get moving!
Aerobic exercise that is done for 30 minutes or more, 5 times a week, can get things moving in your body. Your heart and circulatory system will thank you for the healthy steps you are taking!

Go to bed.
Don't get caught in the sleepless nights of the rat race. Ensure you are getting adequate sleep every night so your body has time to replenish and recharge. Staying up late is also a temptation to eat unhealthy snacks before bedtime.

Consider taking these steps for better health before, during and after pregnancy. If you notice any elevated blood pressure readings at home, contact your physician for further assistance.

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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