Health Tips
Stay healthy by reading wellness advice from our top specialists.

Pregnant women are advised ample rest and there’s a good reason for it. In fact, pregnant women undergo constant blood pressure check up so that the doctor can monitor the pressure levels throughout pregnancy. Developing high blood pressure during pregnancy is not always harmful but it could also lead to several complications. “These days high BP during late pregnancies is very common. There is also a high possibility that women have hypertension as a pre-existing condition,” says Dr Anjali Talwalkar, obstetrics and gynecology, Kohinoor Hospital.

These are some of the symptoms that you need to watch out for:

Typically, most women develop high BP during the seventh month, usually after 20 or 24 weeks. This is the time that women need to be careful and lead as healthy a life as possible. “Some of the effects include protein loss in urine, which could lead to kidney damage. At the same time fluid retention (which is very common) can lead to swollen feet,” she adds. High BP could also lead to pre-eclampsia.

According to Dr Bilsi Mittal, MS (obstetrics and gynaecology), Wockhardt Hospital, “Pregnant women should watch out for symptoms like too much weight gain, blurring of vision, turbidity of urine, severe headaches.”

Here’s what high BP means for your growing baby:

Due to the increased pressure, it directly affects the placenta. “This makes the blood vessels shrink leading to reduced blood flow for your baby. The baby can also experience severe intrauterine growth retardation,” says Talwalkar.

She adds, “Accidental haemohrage is also a complication that women should be aware of. This causes the placenta to separate from the uterus and leads to bleeding.”

High BP can be a dangerous condition because sometimes it can also lead to termination of pregnancy. “This situation is rare but occurs if the pregnant woman’s BP doesn’t come under control with treatment,” says Dr Mittal.

So, what are some of the precautionary measures?

Controlling blood pressure is very important. “It is important for mothers-to-be to ensure that they opt for early detection, which helps in better prognosis. Be regular for antenatal visits. Always follow a low salt diet and continue regular intake of calcium and iron tablets,” says Dr Mittal. Most importantly, a mother-to-be should be supported at home and at work places to help her sail through the pregnancy smoothly.

While the popular belief is that smoking largely affects the lungs because they get directly exposed to inhaled smoke, health experts warn that it also impacts the entire cardiovascular system. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking tobacco is globally the second leading cause of heart diseases after high blood pressure. Nearly 12 % of cardiovascular deaths worldwide occur due to tobacco abuse and secondhand smoking.

In tobacco cigarette, there is combustion, a burning of an organic material that generates temperatures up to 900 degree Celsius. Chronic exposure to this tends to thicken blood vessels, making them weaker in the long run. This can lead to blood clots and ultimately result in stroke or peripheral heart diseases.

“Inhaling the smoke from tobacco builds fatty material -- atheroma -- in the heart of the smoker which then damages the inner lining of arteries and also narrows them further,” Tapan Ghose, Director & HOD, Cardiology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, told IANS. “This narrowing can cause the angina, stroke or heart attack,” he added.

Further, the presence of nicotine in the cigarettes raises the blood pressure, which can have a detrimental effect on the heart’s oxygen balance. “Nicotine causes thickening of the blood vessels, which hampers the blood flow and also causes high blood pressure or hypertension,” Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant, Cardio Thoracic & Vascular Surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, told IANS.

Tobacco also has carbon monoxide, which blends with haemoglobin in the blood more easily than oxygen does, thus affecting the oxygen supply in the body. The carbon monoxide prevents the blood system from effectively carrying oxygen around the body, specifically to vital organs such as the heart and brain, the experts said, adding that apart from regular smokers, those who inhale the smoke passively may also be at risk.

WHO states that of the seven million lives that tobacco claims worldwide each year, almost 900,000 are passive-smokers. Tobacco, whether smoked, swallowed, or chewed poses multiple hazards. In addition to affecting the lungs and heart, it also increases the risk of head and neck, lung, esophageal, pancreatic, and urologic cancers.

According to a recent study published in The Journal of Physiology, smoking could directly damage the muscles by reducing the number of blood vessels in leg muscles, which in turn reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients the muscles receive. This may impact the metabolism and activity levels. Moreover, smoking also affects both male and female fertility, doctors said.

“Women smoking tobacco reduce their chances of conceiving by at least 60% and is also linked to ectopic pregnancy and other tubal factor infertility,” Sagarika Aggarwal, an IVF expert at Indira IVF Hospital, New Delhi, told IANS. On the other hand, male smokers can suffer from decreased sperm quality with lower mobility and increased numbers of abnormally-shaped sperms. Moreover, chain smoking might also decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilise eggs. Besides causing infertility, tobacco during pregnancy can also lead to multiple issues ranging from miscarriage to under-development of the foetus and making the child susceptible to various forms of disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Goel noted.

Quitting is the best way, the experts said while discouraging the use of alternatives like e-cigarettes. “While it is true that e-cigarettes have less quantity of tobacco as compared to regular cigarettes, bidis or hookah, but they also expose lungs, heart and other organs to very high levels of toxic substances,” Goel said. Other measures like clinical interventions, counselling and behavioural therapies can help people quit tobacco abuse.

“Nicotine replacement therapy, including nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers etc, has been found to be effective. Combination therapy with drugs like bupropion has been found to be more effective than nicotine replacement alone,” said Viveka Kumar, Senior Director, Max Heart & Vascular Institute, Saket.

Kumar also emphasised on the role of mass media in spreading awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco, while curbing the easy access to tobacco, especially among the younger vulnerable population. “Availability and accessibility of smoking cessation programmes to smokers who want to stop smoking remains an area which needs to be addressed,” Kumar said.

Blood pressure is one of the most common conditions in India. It is said that one in every three Indians are suffering from hypertension and heart ailments. High blood pressure is a silent killer; in fact, according to the National Centre For Biotechnology Information (NCBI), blood pressure shows seasonal variation. It is the pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of the arteries. It tends to damage the body's blood vessels, thus causing kidney diseases, heart afflictions and other health problems. Blood pressure should be taken care of, especially during summers as it tends to fluctuate more often. We give you some expert tips on managing blood pressure with healthy summer foods.According to Parmeet Kaur, Dietitian, Narayana Hrudayalaya, "The hypertension diet should have foods with high magnesium, potassium and fibre content in it. They should be necessarily low in sodium."

Here are the summer foods for managing blood pressure as suggested by Parmeet Kaur.

1. Berries

All berries are loaded with heart-healthy compounds called flavonoids. The antioxidant rich fruit may help lower blood pressure, as per a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Add blueberries, strawberries, et al to your daily diet.

2. Skimmed milk
Skimmed milk is rich in calcium and vitamin D, two of which work as a team to help reduce blood pressure naturally. According to National Health Service, UK, drinking a glass of skimmed milk a day can cut blood pressure by upto a one third. So gulp down a glass of skimmed milk daily in order to reap maximum benefits.

3. Yogurt

According to a study presented at the American Heart Association (AHA), women who consumed five or more servings of yogurt a week had a lower risk of developing high blood pressure than similar women who hardly ever ate yogurt. So load up on chilled yogurt every day and enjoy a healthful life.

4. Watermelon

According to a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, watermelon could significantly reduce blood pressure in overweight individuals both at rest and while under stress. The pressure on the aorta and on the heart reduced after the consumption of watermelon.

5. Bananas

This tropical fruit is super rich in potassium and even more easy to include in your daily diet. One banana provides one percent of calcium, eight percent of magnesium and 12 percent of potassium that you need every day.

6. Kiwi

According to a report presented in the American Heart Association (AHA), kiwis may naturally lower blood pressure. Three kiwis a day could keep high blood pressure at bay. So toss kiwis in your salads and stave off any risk of high blood pressure.

Parmeet Kaur adds, "Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, etc. These foods cut down the triglyceride count and reduce inflammation."

High blood pressure before conception and early in pregnancy may increase the risk of pregnancy loss, even if the woman does not have a hypertension diagnosis, new research has found.

“Elevated blood pressure among young adults is associated with a higher risk of heart disease later in life, and this study suggests it may also have an effect on reproductive health,” said lead author of the study Carrie Nobles from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Maryland, US.

Millimeter of mercury, or mm Hg, is the unit of measure used for blood pressure.

The findings, published in the journal Hypertension, showed that for every 10 mm Hg increase in diastolic blood pressure (pressure when the heart is resting between beats), there was 18 per cent higher risk for pregnancy loss among the study population.

The researchers also found a 17 per cent increase in pregnancy loss for every 10 mm Hg increase in mean arterial pressure, a measure of the average pressure in the arteries during full heart beat cycles.

The researcher studied more than 1,200 women who had already experienced one or two pregnancy losses and were trying to become pregnant.

The findings were similar for preconception and early-pregnancy blood pressure.

“The impact of cardiovascular risk factors starts really early in life. Physicians treating women of reproductive age should pay attention to slightly elevated blood pressure because it may have other not-well-recognised effects, such as adverse pregnancy outcome,” said senior author of the study Enrique Schisterman from NICHD.

“Preconception is a previously unrecognized critical window for intervention such as lifestyle changes that can help prevent later heart disease and may also improve reproductive health,” Schisterman said.

If you are suffering from high blood pressure, listening to classical music in addition to taking your medicines may give you some added advantage as researchers have found that music significantly enhances the effect of anti-hypertensive drugs. Music enhances the beneficial effects of medication a short time after it is taken to control high blood pressure, showed the findings published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“We observed that music improved heart rate and enhanced the effect of anti-hypertensives for about an hour after they were administered,” said study coordinator Vitor Engracia Valenti, Professor at Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil. For the study, the researchers performed an experiment to measure the effects of musical auditory stimulus associated with anti-hypertensive medication on heart rate and blood pressure in a small group of patients with well-controlled hypertension.

On one day, after taking their usual oral anti-hypertensive medication, patients listened to instrumental music via earphones for 60 minutes at the same volume. As control, on the other day, they underwent the same research protocol, but the earphones were not turned on. Heart rate variability was measured at rest and at 20, 40 and 60 minutes after oral medication.

Several statistical and mathematical techniques were used to detect differences between heart rates at different times, with high precision and sensitivity. Analysis of the data showed heart rate diminishing significantly 60 minutes after medication when patients listed to music in the period. Heart rate did not fall as significantly when they did not listen to music.

Blood pressure also responded more strongly to medication when they listened to music, the study said.”We found that the effect of anti-hypertension medication on heart rate was enhanced by listening to music,” Valenti said.

One of the hypotheses raised by the researchers is that music stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, increases gastrointestinal activity and accelerates absorption of anti-hypertensive medication, intensifying its effects on heart rate.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems constitute the autonomic nervous system, which maintains homeostasis. The sympathetic nervous system accelerates heart rate, constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure.

The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body at rest, slowing the heart, lowering blood pressure, and stabilising blood sugar and adrenaline.

Dr. Dipak S Kolte
Dr. Dipak S Kolte
MD - Allopathy, Gynaecological Endoscopy Specialist Infertility Specialist, 12 yrs, Pune
Dr. Mayur Patil
Dr. Mayur Patil
BHMS, Family Physician General Physician, 5 yrs, Pune
Dr. Pradnya Shirke
Dr. Pradnya Shirke
MS/MD - Ayurveda, Gynaecologist Infertility Specialist, 17 yrs, Pune
Dr. Renu Vatkar
Dr. Renu Vatkar
MDS, Pune
Dr. Nitin Desai
Dr. Nitin Desai
BAMS, Ayurveda Panchakarma, 22 yrs, Pune