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Pregnancy’s effect on blood pressure and how a healthy diet helps

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

It is no mean feat to grow another human being inside oneself. So, it comes as no surprise that pregnancy has several profound impacts on the body.

Plasma volume increases progressively through pregnancy. Cardiac output increases by 20%. The mother’s body requires more iron to produce foetal haemoglobin and certain other enzymes, as well as folate and B12. Her glucose metabolism undergoes changes to provide the foetus with sufficient glucose and energy and fuel its development. And the growing uterus causes mechanical changes to the digestive tract, pushing the stomach upwards and increasing gastric pressure.

Pregnancy and blood pressure

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Among these many changes, one significant shift that women should watch out for is a change in blood pressure. The pregnancy causes blood pressure to decrease in the first and second trimester but increase in the third. This increase in blood pressure can have a significant effect on the foetus if care is not taken.

It can cause a decrease in blood flow to the placenta, affecting the amount of oxygen the baby receives. This can, in turn, lead to intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight, or premature birth. High blood pressure can also cause the placenta to be separated from the uterine wall, causing severe bleeding.

There are several factors that contribute to increases in blood pressure during pregnancy. The risk increases if women are overweight or obese, over 35 years of age, not getting enough physical activity, carrying more than one child or have a family history of hypertension.

How a healthy diet can help

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Pregnant woman must also look into their iodine intake, as deficiency of iodine in the mother can lead to congenital abnormalities and decreased intelligence. Supplementation of iodine in severely deficient mothers is likely to increase the IQ of the infant. In severe cases of deficiency cretinism could precipitate. Iodine deficiency also leads to hypothyroid issues in the mother and infant. The easiest and best way to ensure that the required iodine reaches the mother is through iodised salt.

However, one of the main contributors to high blood pressure is dietary sodium. Sodium levels in the diet increase from added salt as well as from processed or ready-to-eat foods. Hence, pregnant women should highly restrict the consumption of foods high in sodiumsuch as pickles, papads, and preserved food. Store-bought sauces are also another prominent contributor of sodium and should be avoided as far as possible.

One good way to do this is to replace salty tastes with tangy or citrus tastes. For instance, pregnant women require a large quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet to ensure adequate micronutrients. A good way to achieve this without adding more salt to the diet is through fresh salads seasoned with lime juice or coriander.

Another clear contributor to high blood pressure is bad cholesterol. When the arteries get clogged due to cholesterol, this forces the heart to pump harder, which increases blood pressure. Thus, women should also stay away from unhealthy cooking such as fried foods and dishes containing trans fats. What’s more, fried foods also often contain high levels of sodium, which increases sodium intake.

Sweets and desserts, particularly those prepared outside the home, can also be red flag. Such preparations often contain unhealthy fats, which again contribute to bad cholesterol and high blood pressure.

While it might seem like that cravingsareundeniable, all our cravings are learnt and we do get used to a variety of tastes over time. So, when eating while pregnant, it’s time to cut down on sodium-richand fatty foods, and experiment with more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a range of other spices and herbs. This will ensure that you and your baby stay healthy and happy.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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Diet, exercise and sunlight: Three factors women shouldn’t ignore for good bone health

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
11 January 2021

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Barring a significant injury or fracture, we rarely tend to think about bone health. Yet, for women, particularly those who are middle-aged or older, this is a vital concern because of the risk of osteoporosis.

In 2013, it was estimated that there were 50 million Indians who were osteoporotic or having low bone mass. Some studies have found that the prevalence of osteoporosis could be as high as 42.5% in women over the age of 50.

Osteoporosis and health complications

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Osteoporosis comes from the Latin for “porous bone”, and is a condition where bone tissue loses its density, and becomes weaker and more fragile. Such bones are easily susceptible to breaks, resulting in pain, disability and loss of functionality in everyday life.

Bones, which form the primary supporting framework of the body, grow from birth till our early twenties, which is the period of peak bone mass. Bone is an active tissue that undergoes regular replacement in conditions of health.

In osteoporosis, however, bone formation is outpaced by bone loss, leading to porosity or thinness of bone tissue and brittle bones. Such bones could easily be fractured even in the absence of significant trauma. Such fractures tend to reduce mobility and lead to increased hospitalization and dependence on others.

Why osteoporosis affects women more

Women are particular at risk for osteoporosis because they have lesser bone mass to start with. The geometry and structure of bone have also been increasingly recognized as important risk factors for fracture.

The risk of osteoporosis significantly rises during menopause because of the hormonal changes women undergo at the time. This is because estrogen plays a significant role in maintaining bone health, and the secretion of this hormone falls drastically during menopause.

The importance of protein and calcium in the diet

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For some time now, awareness of the importance of calcium for bone health has been growing. Hence, women are advised to consume sufficient amounts of dairy, green leafy vegetables, soya products and nuts.

What many don’t realise is that sufficient levels of protein are just as important for strong bones. After all, protein makes up roughly 50% of bone volume and about one-third of its mass. Daily intake of protein is also necessary to provide the raw materials for bone formation. Unfortunately, research shows that the levels of dietary protein consumed by Indians are actually reducing.

For non-vegetarians chicken, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. For vegetarians, pulses are one of the primary sources of protein, along with dairy products. Daily intake of protein in at least two major meals of the day, particularly in healthy forms such as sambhar or dal is, therefore, vital.

The role of exercise and sunlight

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Bone health also requires good muscle health. This makes it necessary to undertake moderate exercise as often as possible. A 45-minute walk six days a week as well as resistance training using the body weight, such as surya namaskaras, can go a long way to building muscles. Importantly, the body also requires Vitamin D to mobilize calcium for bone health. Hence, exposure to peak sunlight between 11am and 3 pm at least twice a week is also vital for bone health.

Osteoporosis can be a serious health problem that disrupts life and limits mobility, particularly for women. However, a healthy diet, rich in calcium and protein, together with exercise, can go a long way in maintaining bone health.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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