High blood pressure is a condition that is more common with age but in some, may also be related to the menopause. In this page, our menopause expert Eileen Durward discusses the changes you can make to help the problem, even if high blood pressure is not due to the menopause.
High blood pressure may be a symptom of the menopause. However, there is also debate as to whether HRT raises blood pressure. Either way, if you are or suspect you are suffering from high blood pressure, it is worth speaking to your doctor to get to the root of the problem.
Your blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts on the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms, and therefore many people are unaware that they are suffering from it.
However, it is important to keep a check on your blood pressure level because it can develop into serious health conditions such as heart attacks or strokes.
Your body goes through some major changes during the menopause, and as a result you may experience a range of unexpected symptoms, such as high blood pressure. The connection between the menopause and high blood pressure is not yet fully understood. However, recent research identifies that oestrogen prevents a build-up of plaque in the arterial walls. It also helps to prevent narrowing of the arteries and hence resistance to blood flow. Thus, reduced levels of oestrogen as you go through the menopause puts the arteries under more pressure, making you more susceptible to heart problems.
In addition, women find that they have a tendency to gain weight during the menopause. This can also have an effect on your blood pressure reading. Carrying that little extra weight puts more strain on your arteries, making you more prone to high blood pressure.
Stress and anxiety are common symptoms of the menopause which can also negatively impact on your blood pressure. Keeping stress in check will not only make you feel better, but also reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Often the best way to keep your blood pressure level is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes:
Exercise – keeping active is the best way to keep your blood pressure down. However, if your blood pressure is very high, then you should consult your doctor before starting any exercise programme, as they will be able to advise the best programme for you. Generally, aerobic exercises are the most effective in lowering blood pressure. This includes walking, swimming, jogging and cycling
Smoking – although this doesn’t directly cause high blood pressure, it does put you at a much higher risk of developing it. Smoking narrows your arteries, putting much more strain on them. Your doctor is likely to recommend that you cut down or stop smoking altogether if your blood pressure is high
Alcohol – while a small amount of alcohol may improve your blood pressure, excessive amounts will negatively affect your blood pressure as well as other aspects of your wellbeing. Additionally, alcohol is very calorific. If you consume large amounts of alcohol, you are likely to gain weight, putting you at further risk of developing high blood pressure
Weight – being overweight puts extra strain on your heart. It has to work harder to pump the blood around your body and so this is likely to raise your blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure. If you do need to lose weight, then it is worth speaking to a doctor or dietician who will recommend a plan that is safe and healthy for you
Salt – while salt is necessary in our diet, too much raises our blood pressure. Salt causes your body to retain water, and this extra water puts your arteries under more strain
Stress – while you are stressed, your blood pressure tends to increase. It lowers again once the stressor has been removed but if you are continually under pressure, then this is likely to raise your blood pressure in the long run. Make sure you take time each day to de-stress and relax.
Obviously, high blood pressure is a condition which is best managed by your doctor. If however, you have been told that, although higher than it should be, your blood pressure is not at a dangerous level and for the moment only requires monitoring to make sure it does not become worse, there are a number of steps you can take.
Take garlic - one of our oldest remedies. It is, of course, also found in the foods we eat so don’t hold back on this delicious ingredient. Garlic supplements are widely available and some are also combined with another medicinal herb called Hawthorn or Crataegus which has a traditional use to support the health of the heart.
It is always worth speaking to your doctor if you are concerned about your condition, and before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle. However, if you have not found a combination of lifestyle changes and herbal remedies to be of help, then you may have to resort to conventional medicines.
You will need to consult with your doctor to determine which type of medication is going to be most effective for you. Types of medication include diuretics, beta blockers and calcium-channel blockers. Each work in a different way and have different side-effects, so you may need to try a few types before finding the one you are most comfortable with.
You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.