High blood pressure (hypertension) at menopause is common, but it really pays dividends to keep it at a healthy level.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition and the older you are, the more likely you are to get it.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of your arteries. When it’s too high, your heart has to work harder. This can cause serious damage to your arteries.
Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure makes you more likely to get heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
High blood pressure is often called a silent killer because it doesn’t always have outward symptoms. That means you could have it for years and not know.
It can quietly damage your heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, and kidneys if it isn’t treated. It’s a major cause of strokes and heart attacks in women at menopause.
It is also the time to check your hormone balance as progesterone acts as a natural diuretic to reduce blood pressure and help lose weight.
What do the numbers mean?
Whenever your doctor takes your blood pressure they normally do two readings as ‘white coat syndrome’ – – or the natural anxiety we often feel at the doctors – can of itself cause a rise in blood pressure.
Systolic pressure (the upper number in a blood pressure reading) refers to pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure (the lower number) measures pressure in the arteries between heart beats.
Normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80 shown as (120/80). Blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90 is borderline high (prehypertension), while blood pressure above 140/90 defines high blood pressure.
PLEASE NOTE: If your systolic is over 180 or your diastolic is above over 120, you may be having a hypertensive crisis, which can lead to a stroke, heart attack, or kidney damage.
Rest for a few minutes and take your blood pressure again. If it’s still that high, call 999.
Symptoms include a severe headache, anxiety, and nosebleeds. You might feel short of breath or pass out.
Obviously the readings vary according to a number of factors: stress and anxiety, medication or illness in some cases and whether you are a healthy weight is a major contributor.
Higher results over time can indicate hypertension and people in this range are more likely to get heart disease than those with a lower reading.
Who is at risk?
Up to age 45, men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women. However menopause is a major factor here and by age 65 it’s more common in women.
You’re more likely to get it if a close family member has it and widespread among people with diabetes.
But in most cases, the cause isn’t known. Sometimes, kidney or adrenal gland disease can bring it on.
How to help yourself
If you are aware your blood pressure is high, or creeping up, then there are a number of very simple ways to reduce your risk.
1 Reduct your salt intake. Salt causes your body to retain fluid and that puts a greater burden on your heart and boosts your blood pressure.
Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day., and check any processed or convenience foods as well as how much you add to cooking or when eating.
Processed and convenience foods make up the bulk of our sodium intake but tinned soups and cooked meat like salami and ham are high in salt too.
2 Stress can make your blood pressure spike, but there’s no proof stress keeps it high long-term.
To manage it, stay away from unhealthy things like poor diet, alcohol use, and smoking. All are linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.
3 Keep your weight down as every extra pound puts a strain on your heart and raises your odds of having high blood pressure.
That’s why diets designed to lower blood pressure also aim to control calories and the best are those that cut out fatty foods and extra sugar, while adding fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and fibre.
Good examples are the Meditteranean, DASH and Oestrogen Dominance diets and even a 10-pound weight loss can make a real difference.
4 Limit alcohol as it can boost your blood pressure so limit drinks to no more than two a day for men, or one for women.
That’s 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirit.
5 Caffeine can make you jittery, and can also raise your blood pressure for a little while, but there’s no link between caffeine and hypertension.
You can safely drink one or two cups of coffee a day.
6 Medication can also increase your readings. Cold and flu medicines with decongestants are one of several classes of medication that can raise blood pressure.
Others include NSAID pain relievers, steroids, diet pills, birth control pills, and some antidepressants. If you have high blood pressure check with your pharmacist or doctor if any drugs or supplements you’re taking could affect your readings.
8 Exercise and regular activity helps lower blood pressure. Adults should get about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week.
That could include gardening, walking briskly, bicycling, or other aerobic exercise. Add in some muscle strengthening at least 2 days a week.
What you may be prescribed
Although bioidentical progesterone is very helpful in reducing blood pressure it is not often prescribed by GP’s.
1 Diuretics are usually the first port of call dfto get rid of extra water if diet and exercise changes aren’t enough. They help your body shed excess sodium and water to lower blood pressure. That means you’ll pee more often.
However some diuretics may lower the amount of potassium in your body as well as he levels of calcium,m and magnesium. You might notice more muscle weakness, leg cramps, and fatigue. Others can boost blood sugar in people with diabetes so discuss any side effects you have immediately with your doctor.
2 Beta-Blockers slow your heart rate, which means it doesn’t have to work as hard. They’re also used to treat other heart conditions, like an abnormal heart rate, or arrhythmia.
Your doctor may prescribe them along with other medications and side effects can include insomnia, dizziness, fatigue, cold hands and feet.
3 ACE inhibitors lower your body’s supply of angiotensin II — a substance that makes blood vessels contract and narrow. The result is more relaxed, open (dilated) arteries, as well as lower blood pressure and less effort for your heart.
Side effects can include a dry cough, skin rash, dizziness, and high potassium levels. It’s recommended you avoid pregnancy while taking one of these drugs.
4 ARBs drugs block receptors for angiotensin. It’s like placing a shield over a lock. This blockade prevents the chemical’s artery-tightening effects and lowers your blood pressure.
They can take several weeks to become fully effective and possible side effects include dizziness, muscle cramps, insomnia, and high potassium levels. Again it’s recommended you avoid pregnancy while taking one of these drugs.
5 Calcium channel blockers slow the movement of calcium into the cells of your heart and blood vessels. That eases your heartbeat and relaxes your blood vessels.
Side effects can include dizziness, heart palpitations, swollen ankles, and constipation. Take them with food or milk and avoid grapefruit juice and alcohol because of possible interactions.
6 Other medications such as vasodilators, alpha blockers, and central agonists also relax blood vessels. Your doctor may suggest them if other blood pressure medications don’t work well enough or if you have another condition.
Side effects can include dizziness, a fast heartbeat or heart palpitations, headaches, or diarrhoea.
7 Complementary therapies are also an option. Meditation can lower blood pressure by putting your body into a state of deep rest. Yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing also help.
Pair these relaxation techniques with other lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise.
Hypertension is often a lifelong condition so it really does pay to get it under control before you may need medication. If you are on such medication then continue to monitor your blood pressure so you can lower your odds of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.
At menopause hormone balance is a key factor in both hypertension and weight gain so do check for oestrogen dominance as this plays a role in many health risks at menopause.
The Diet To Help Beat Oestrogen Dominance
Exercise and High Blood Pressure