Research has shown that heart healthy eating plans, like the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension ("DASH diet") eating plan or Mediterranean-style diet, can help to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease in non-pregnant people. These diets encourage eating fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, low-fat dairy, and nuts and legumes. Some research has shown these diets also lower blood pressure in pregnancy and may lower risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including preeclampsia. But studies have shown that only 6-7% of pregnant or reproductive aged women in the United States follow these heart healthy diet recommendations.
For this study, researchers asked: what are the barriers to eating a heart healthy diet for women with high blood pressure or a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy? Thirty-eight women with high blood pressure or a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy living in Massachusetts answered a study survey written by the researchers, among which 40% described themselves as "food-insecure" (defined as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways). Among those surveyed, the study found that nearly all those surveyed thought eating healthy was important.
Yet, the most commonly reported barrier for eating a healthy diet was cost (42% of those surveyed). The second most common barrier was time. When asked what resources could help support healthy eating, pre-designed meal plans, grocery lists, and food delivery services were the most popular options chosen.
Take home message: Studies like these are important to translate research findings into real life. Even when new findings about interventions or lifestyle changes to reduce risk of preeclampsia are available, women must be able to adopt those interventions/changes for them to have an impact. Research in interventions is important, and research in implementation is also important. This study highlights ways to support pregnant women to successfully adopt a heart healthy diet.
Citation: Kovell LC, Sibai D, Wilkie GL, Shankara S, Moinul S, Kaminsky L, Lemon SC, McManus DD. Identifying barriers, facilitators, and interventions to support healthy eating in pregnant women with or at risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Cardiovasc Digit Health J. 2022 Oct 22;3(6 Suppl):S1-S8. doi: 10.1016/j.cvdhj.2022.10.001. PMID: 36589759; PMCID: PMC9795265.
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