Women with chronic hypertension are at an increased risk of giving birth to babies with cardiac malformations, experts said on the eve of World Hypertension Day as they called for concerted efforts to spread awareness about the condition.

Hypertension is a common medical problem encountered during pregnancy and three out of every 100 pregnancies face complications borne of it. Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy can cause maternal and foetal morbidity and mortality.

According to Dr Manoj Kumar, Associate Director and Head of Cardiac Cath Lab, Max Hospital in Patparganj, “A woman is said to be suffering from chronic hypertension when her blood pressure exceeds 140/90 mmHg before pregnancy or 20 weeks’ gestation. Children born to hypertensive women are at a 50 per cent increased risk of congenital malformations.” Experts said that World Hypertension Day is a good platform for raising awareness about these lesser known effects of hypertension so that proper and timely prevention may be possible.

“A common condition which affects 20 to 25 per cent pregnant women with a history of chronic hypertension is preeclampsia, a condition characterised by constant high blood pressure and a large amount of protein in the urine. It is very important to keep the blood pressure of such patients under control to avoid any complications in the pregnancy,” said Dr Amar Singhal, Head of Cardiology at Action Heart Institute.

High blood pressure is largely preventable through the adoption of lifestyle modifications at early stages, added another expert. “It is highly advised that women suffering from hypertension maintain a healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables and lower the intake of processed and packaged foods as they are rich in sodium and trans fats and low in potassium and calcium and may lead to increased blood pressure.

“They should also use herbs, spices and salt-free seasoning blends, thereby reducing the use of commercial sauces, ketchups, mayonnaise, etc. And and manage mental stress through yoga, meditation and other relaxing techniques,” said Taranjeet Kaur, metabolic balance coach and nutritionist. Pregnant women with chronic hypertension should also be screened during and after delivery to prevent any congenital defects in their offspring.

Dr Singhal also rooted for more research in the area to ascertain the long-term health effects of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy. “On World Hypertension Day, the medical fraternity must deliberate upon adequate steps to come up with improved methods for classifying, detecting, and treating women at risk from these conditions. Timely anticipation and detection of what is commonly known as a silent disease can reduce mortality and morbidity to a great extent,” he said.

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