Women who have had high blood pressure during pregnancy don’t always know that they should be closely followed by a physician after delivery and long term.
Over time many women end up with high blood pressure requiring treatment. Because high blood pressure can be silent, women frequently don’t even know they have a problem. Often women are busy juggling family and work responsibilities. This can lead to lack of sleep, poor diet and other sources of stress making exercise and other healthy habits a low priority.
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An important but seldom discussed heart problem during pregnancy is the weakening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). This can cause symptoms of chest pressure or pain, shortness of breath with exertion or lying flat and swelling in the legs. Sometimes there can be fatigue or palpitations.
Both blood pressure and cardiomyopathy can be serious but are treatable with medications and lifestyle changes. Testing is frequently needed including an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) to check the heart valves, size and strength of the heart muscle and to also look for high pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
Another beneficial screening test for women with a history of high blood pressure during pregnancy is CIMT which measures the thickness of the carotid arteries by ultrasound. With careful monitoring and significant changes in lifestyle including diet, exercise and proper nutrients, many times medications can be avoided or reduced. But regular follow-up is very beneficial to help reduce the lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke.
Dr. Alicia Williams, D.O. is a Board Certified Cardiologist at The Center for Optimal Health. Reach her at (517) 324.9400 or at www. cfohealth.com.