Many factors may play into a woman’s blood pressure results during pregnancy.
High blood pressure during pregnancy may present more problems than previously believed, as research is showing that it may lead to long-term memory problems and cognitive decline later in life.
Researchers from the Netherlands have done tests on the memory and thinking skills of 596 women who had given birth within the previous fifteen years. Those studied included 481 women who have had normal blood pressure levels during their pregnancies and 80 with gestational hypertension, an ailment which typically develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 35 participants had also preeclampsia, a later stage pregnancy complication that results in both high blood pressure and protein in urine samples.
“Women with high blood pressure that starts in pregnancy — as well as women with pre-eclampsia — should be monitored closely after their pregnancy,’ said Maria Adank of Rotterdam’s Erasmus University, the paper author and obstetrician, wrote in the December 30, 2020 online issue of Neurology.
Her suggestion was that women should make necessary lifestyle changes that can lead to a lowered blood pressure level in order to avoid these chronic issues that can result from allowing them to manifest.
Adank’s team discovered that subjects with high blood pressure while pregnant were more apt to show lower scores in recall ability tests both in terms of immediate and longer-term memory. For the test, they were asked to remember a 15 word list right after being told them and then again 20 minutes later. This memory deficiency remained even after things like education level and BMI were taken into account, showing that outside factors weren’t the cause for the cognitive issues.
The difference, while not massive, was still enough to cause interest from those collecting data. Women with previous records of high blood pressure during pregnancies scored 25 out of a possible 45 on average in the immediate recall test, compared to 28 for the other women. The test was given to each participant three times.
“It is important to consider gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia as risk factors for cognitive impairment that are specific to women,” Dr Adank maintained. “Many women may think of this as a temporary issue during pregnancy and not realize it could potentially have long-lasting effects.”
In terms of fine motor skills, processing speed, verbal fluency and visual-spatial ability, the scientists observed no differences between the two groups, implying that the issues are limited, at least at this time, to memory.
Dr Adank was careful to caution that this study does not demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship between gestational high blood and test scores later in life. It only, as of now, shows an association between the two. Until the cause is known, it should be something that they make note to study further.
Many factors may play into a woman’s blood pressure results during pregnancy. Common risk factors like obesity, can be minimized through diet and exercise. While dietary guidelines for pregnant women often varies from person to person. A nutritionist can help create a meal plan that’s designed for your specific height and weight. Of course, smoking, alcohol, and salt can all play a role in pressure levels. If you feel a concern over your blood pressure during pregnancy, or even just in life, you should always talk to your doctor and try to determine what course of action works best for you.
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Sources: Medical Dialogue, Daily Mail, Healthline
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