High blood pressure or hypertension is a common chronic condition in post menopausal women. In fact after age 65 it is more common in women than in men. In this article I will explore some of the causes of high blood pressure and some things you can do to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.
I am not a physician and this article is not intended to be medical advice. The information is intended to be used for educational purposes only. Consult your physician for medical advice.
Who is at risk for developing high blood pressure?
Several things increase your risk of developing high blood pressure:
- An increase in belly fat and obesity
- Diet low in fruits, vegetables and whole gains
- Excessive alcohol use
- High stress
- Lack of exercise
- Having diabetes, chronic kidney disease, high cholesterol or sleep apnea
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Increased age – your risk increases as you age
- Race – people of African descent have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure
Is high blood pressure caused by menopausal changes?
After menopause, blood pressure generally goes up. Women have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure prior to menopause, but that risk increases sharply after menopause. Prior to menopause, estrogen seems to offer protection for women from high blood pressure. Lower estrogen levels after menopause seem to contribute to the increase, but it is also caused by other changes that occur during and after menopause.
Women typically gain weight especially around the belly and get less exercise after menopause. They also may have a poorer response to stress after menopause. These factors also contribute indirectly to blood pressure increases.
What are the dangers of high blood pressure?
If high blood pressure is not controlled it can damage your arteries and blood vessels . This can lead to stroke and heart attacks. High blood pressure also causes damage to your heart which can lead to heart disease and even heart failure.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
Unfortunately there are usually no symptoms of high blood pressure unless it is extremely high. Many women are not even aware that they have high blood pressure. The symptoms include severe headache, confusion, vision problems, chest pain, nosebleeds and shortness of breath. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
How can you lower your risks?
There are some risk factors that you have no control over like family history, age and race. But some things you can do to lower your risk of getting high blood pressure are:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Women often gain weight after menopause and this directly contributes to higher blood pressure, especially if it is added belly fat.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Not only will this help you to maintain your weight, the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables help to maintain blood pressure.
- Limit sugar intake. Diets high in sugar contribute to weight gain and belly fat, but are also associated with high blood pressure independent of weight.
- Limit processed foods. Processed foods are often high in sugar, and salt. Both of these can contribute to higher blood pressure
- Stop smoking. Smoking also contributes to high blood pressure.
- Limit alcohol intake. Higher alcohol consumption contributes to high blood pressure.
- Get regular exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise helps to lower blood pressure.
- Practice stress reduction techniques like mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure.
- Get your blood pressure measured, or measure it at home. If it is higher than 140/80 then this is considered hypertension or high blood pressure. Talk to your physician about your options.
High blood pressure is not considered a symptom of menopause, but it does tend to increase in women who are post menopausal. You should get yours tested regularly or test it at home. Understand your risk factors and work to reduce them if your blood pressure is starting to creep up.