Pregnant women with whose blood pressure is even slightly raised can be dramatically more at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, say scientists. In the first study of its kind a condition called pre-hypertension - where blood pressure is in the upper range of normal - has been shown to be potentially dangerous. Up to one-in-seven expectant mothers in the UK already suffer high blood pressure and the discovery could lead to many more requiring monitoring. Professor Jian-Min Niu, of Guangdong Women and Children Hospital in China, said: "Our findings underscore an important issue that has been long ignored in clinical practice - the fact criteria for hypertension in pregnancy are derived from the general population. "We anticipate if reaffirmed in further research, our study could spark a change in what we currently deem healthy blood pressure in pregnant women." The research found pregnant women whose blood pressure is in the upper ranges of normal could be at high risk of developing metabolic syndrome - a combination of diabetes, hypertension and obesity - and heart disease risk after giving birth. Current guidelines do not distinguish between pregnant women and the general population and define hypertension as persistently elevated blood pressure that is 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic or 90 mm Hg diastolic and above. Readings of 120-139 mm Hg systolic over 80-89 mm Hg diastolic is deemed 'pre-hypertension' - a warning sign of high blood pressure in the future. But the study published in Hypertension said pregnant women with blood pressure in this range had 6.5 times greater odds of developing metabolic syndrome compared to those in the lower normal range. It looked at 507 Chinese women with uncomplicated pregnancies, no history of hypertension and normal blood sugar and cholesterol who underwent seven or more blood pressure measurements along with other standard tests including weight measurements and foetal ultrasounds. Blood sugar and cholesterol levels were also tested at the start, shortly before and after giving birth and once every few months for up to 1.6 years after giving birth. The participants were grouped into three categories including those whose blood pressure remained on the lower end of normal (34%), around the mid-point (52%) or in the pre-hypertension range (13%). A series of snapshot measurements did not predict future risk but patterns of repeated elevations did - highlighting the dynamic nature of blood pressure during pregnancy. The results support the idea of pregnancy as a cardiovascular stress test for women that can reveal underlying disturbances in blood pressure regulation, glucose and cholesterol metabolism. Abnormalities in all three areas can disrupt functions and lead to full-blown cardiovascular disease years down the road. Prof Niu said globally the burden of cardio-metabolic diseases in women has been rising steadily over the last decades. He said: "Blood pressure measurements are already done as matter of routine and cost-effective checkups during pregnancy so our findings underscore this tool's potential to gauge a woman's post-partum cardiovascular risk. "Early identification of metabolic risk factors and implementation of lifestyle modifications may help delay the onset of cardiovascular disease that would present itself 20 to 30 years after delivery."

CHRISTIAN NHS WORKER LOSES APPEAL

A Christian health worker found to have harassed a junior Muslim colleague when she prayed for her has lost her employment appeal today.

Victoria Wasteney, 37, a senior occupational health therapist was disciplined by East London NHS Foundation Trust when she was accused of trying to convert 25-year-old Enya Nawaz.

Born-again Christian Miss Wasteney invited her to church events and gave her a book, I Dared To Call Him Father, about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity.

When Miss Nawaz was upset about health problems, Miss Wasteney said she offered to pray for her, putting her hand on her knee and asking God for ‘peace and healing’.

Miss Wasteney denied she ever attempted to convert her Muslim colleague, claiming she thought the two were friends.

She also claimed her young colleague was “manipulated” into complaining by the hospital trust.

Miss Wasteney, from Epping, was the £50,000-a-year head of forensic occupational therapy at the John Howard Centre in Homerton, a secure hospital for mentally ill patients, since 2007.

She took the trust to an employment tribunal claiming it had failed to clear her of wrongdoing after an eight-month disciplinary and that she had been harassed and discriminated against because of her religious belief.

The trust argued the disciplinary hearing was fair and denied it discriminated against Miss Wasteney, which was upheld by an Employment Tribunal last year.

Her lawyers later lodged an appeal citing article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of conscience and religion.

However Today at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in central London Judge Eady QC dismissed the appeal, and backed the Employment tribunal’s original finding.

In her judgment she said: “I am satisfied the Employment Tribunal approached its task correctly and provided a proper and adequate explanation of its reasons. I duly dismiss this appeal.”

She would be consulting with her lawyers about what legal action she may be able to take.

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