30 The Medical Directory Understanding Maternal Health and Hypertension (Family Features) A common mis- conception is high blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, rarely af- fects women. However, nearly half of all adults with HBP are women. While HBP isn’t directly related to gender, a woman’s life stages like pregnancy, pregnancy prevention (birth control) and menopause can increase the risk of developing HBP. HBP is an important sign that pre- eclampsia, or severe high blood pres- sure during pregnancy, may be de- veloping and testing may be needed to check both the mother and baby. Not all women have noticeable symp- toms beyond high blood pressure, but when they do occur, theymay include headaches, vision changes, abdomi- nal pain or rapid swelling (edema). Black women of childbearing age are more than twice as likely to have uncontrolled blood pressure than their white counterparts, according to research featured in a special Go Red for Women issue of the “Journal of the American Heart Association.” Additionally, food insecurity, or lack of access to adequate healthy food, which is one of the social factors that may affect HBP risk, is higher among Hispanic and Black women com- pared to white women. While delivery of the child is the only cure for preeclampsia, which af- fects 1 in 25 pregnancies in the Unit- ed States, management of condition is based on several factors, including the overall health of the mother and the progress of the disease. Symp- toms usually subside within six weeks of delivery. To help ensure a heart-healthy pregnancy, consider these tips. Edu- cation about healthy heart habits from the American Heart Associa- tion is nationally supported by El- evance Health Foundation. Visit a health care provider regu- larly. A health care professional will monitor you and your baby at regu- lar prenatal visits – monthly until 28 weeks then the frequency will in- crease to bi-weekly or weekly as the due date approaches. There is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia or test to predict the condition. Fol- low your health care team’s recom- mendations andcheckbloodpressure and urine levels of protein regularly, if advised. Track blood pressure at home. To take readings, the American Heart Association recommends using a validated automatic, cuff-style bicep monitor. Avoid caffeine or exercise within 30 minutes before measur- ing and empty your bladder at least 5 minutes beforehand. Sit with your back straight and supported with your arm supported on a flat surface and the upper arm at heart level. Place the cuff directly above the bend in the elbow and don’t take the mea- surement over your clothes. Measure at the same time daily, such as morn- ing and evening, and record the re- sults to share with your doctor. Take medication as prescribed. Some medications, including some heart medicines, may be risky for you or your fetus during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about what’s safe, what to do if you miss a dose and other drugs or supplements that may help improve or maintain your health. Never stop medications with- out approval. Manage blood pressure through lifestyle modification. Limiting salt intake and getting regular physical activity can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range. Reduce stress and manage anxi- ety. Some ways to calm down include meditating, spending time in nature and enjoying other hobbies. Monitor weight gain. Doctors will advise you how much weight is safe to gain based on your body mass in- dex (BMI) before pregnancy. Normal weight women with a BMI of 18.5- 24.9 who are pregnant with one baby are typically expected to gain 25-35 pounds. Avoid unhealthy habits. While pregnant, do not smoke, drink alco- hol or use illegal drugs. It’s important to know that women with preeclampsia are more likely to develop HBP and diabetes later in life. Research also shows having the condition increases the odds of heart failure, especially if preeclampsia happens inmore than one pregnancy.