High blood pressure in new mothers

Published on 06 Feb

High blood pressure can be very dangerous; it can increase the risk of strokes, heart disease and the formation of blood clots, all of which can lead to death. However, hypertension can often go unnoticed by your GP.

A new study [1] which investigated 200 Dutch women found that 17.5% of them had high blood pressure which remained undetected by their GP. In clinic readings taken by their GPs missed 56% of cases where women were experiencing hypertension. Particularly, blood pressure readings were significantly highly when monitored at home in that 46% of these women had significant decreases to blood pressure from day to night time and 42.5% suffered from night time hypertension.

This new research brings with it advice for new mothers who experienced high blood pressure throughout their pregnancies and mother who suffered preeclampsia in that they should monitor their own blood pressure at home long after they have had their baby (approximately 1 year). By monitoring your own blood pressure at different times of the day and in the comfort of your own home, you can get a more accurate reading and understanding of your health and wellbeing.

For those who rely on getting their blood pressure taken by their GP, they may be falsely reassured of their good health.

What does my blood pressure reading mean?

A blood pressure reading provides you with two numbers: the top number (systolic pressure) and a bottom number (diastolic pressure). The top number represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts and should be between 90 and 120. The bottom number is the blood pressure when the heart is between beats and should ideally be between 60 and 80.

How do I decrease my blood pressure?

If you have elevated blood pressure, there is a high chance this will turn into high blood pressure, which can have serious health consequences. At this stage, your blood pressure can be reduced by small changes in your lifestyle, no medication is needed!

  1. Watch your weight – blood pressure often increases as your weight decreases. Weight loss is one of the most effective ways to help reduce your blood pressure.
  2. Regular exercise – by doing just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help reduce your blood pressure.
  3. Healthy eating – a diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables and low in sodium.
  4. Limit your alcohol intake – although a small intake of alcohol can help reduce your blood pressure, these effects are quickly reversed if you drink more than the recommended amount.
  5. Quit smoking
  6. Reduce stress – stress can be a particularly important trigger of high blood pressure, particularly as when we encounter stress we tend to turn to unhealthy eating and increased intake of alcohol.
  7. Try to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night

To learn more about the causes and consequences of high blood pressure, please visit the NHS website by clicking here.

[1] http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/early/2018/02/02/HYPERTENSIONAHA.117.10338

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