As if the weight gain, night sweats and hot flashes aren’t enough, there’s a serious condition that menopausal women need to pay attention to—hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs because your heart is working extra hard to push blood through your arteries. Because blood pressure usually increases after menopause, postmenopausal women have an increased risk of high blood pressure compared to premenopausal women. What’s the link?
Research suggests that the hormonal and biochemical changes of menopause could be a contributor. Changes in hormone levels related to menopause can cause weight gain and an increased sensitivity to salt, which, in turn, can lead to hypertension.
You have hypertension if your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or greater. You may not even have any symptoms, but over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure damages the arteries, blocking blood flow to your heart, kidneys, brain, arms and legs. This damage can lead to many problems, including chest pain (angina), heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, aneurysm, brain damage and retinopathy (severe damage to the retina of the eye). The good news is that making healthy lifestyle changes can help you prevent or manage hypertension.
What to do?
You can lower your blood pressure by following these steps:
- Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Be physically active for at least two to three hours a week.
- Follow a heart-healthy diet that’s chock-full of fruits, vegetables, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and whole grains.
- Keep salt to a minimum.
- If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Ask your healthcare provider if you should take blood pressure medication.