High blood pressure is one of the most common health conditions that affect women after menopause. About 30% of women struggle with high blood pressure, and the rates rise in women as they get older. Interestingly, more men than women struggle with high blood pressure until women reach menopause. So, it begs the question: Does menopause cause high blood pressure?
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition where the pressure exerted on your vessels puts your body at risk for other health conditions like heart attack and stroke.
Blood pressure is vital to life. It is determined primarily by two factors: the pressure exerted on your vessels and the amount of blood that your heart pumps. Your vessels relax or increase pressure based on the demands placed on your body. For example, if you are exercising, your blood pressure increases because your heart is pumping more forcefully to deliver oxygen to your muscles.
Hypertension occurs when chronically high blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease. Blood pressure is measured by two readings. First, the top number is your systolic reading. That is the pressure exerted on your vessels when your heart beats (or pumps). Second, the bottom number is your diastolic reading, which is the pressure exerted against your vessels when the heart is resting in between beats.
According to the American College of Cardiology, blood pressure interpretations are based on the following criteria:
- Normal = <120/<80 mmHg
- Elevated = 120-129/<80 mmHg
- Stage 1 hypertension = 130-139/80-89 mmHg
- Stage 2 hypertension = ≥140/ ≥90 mmHg
Your doctor will want to take a minimum of 2 blood pressure readings at separate times to diagnose high blood pressure. It may be recommended that you check your blood pressure outside of the office as well to verify that your in-office readings. Your blood pressure should be taken when you are at rest and well-hydrated.
Estrogen receptors all located all over your cardiovascular system, which can cause affect your blood pressure and even your clotting factors and cholesterol.
Risk Factors For High Blood Pressure
- Race (people of African heritage are more likely to develop high blood pressure)
- Family history
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being overweight or obese
- Using tobacco products
- High sodium diet
- Low potassium diet
- Other chronic health conditions like kidney disease and diabetes
Does Menopause Cause High Blood Pressure?
There is certainly a link between menopause and high blood pressure. A couple of different theories may help explain this connection.
During menopause, your changing hormone levels play a significant role in how all of your organs function, including your heart. Estrogen receptors all located all over your cardiovascular system, which can cause affect your blood pressure and even your clotting factors and cholesterol. Indeed, we know that estrogen is cardioprotective in that it decreases your lipid profile which ultimately protects you from atherosclerosis. (Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fats and other substances that restrict blood flow in your arteries, which can also increase your blood pressure.) Thus, when estrogen levels decline in menopause, women lose cardioprotective.
A woman’s menopause age is determined by several factors, but the average age women reach menopause is 51. We know that the risk for high blood pressure increases with age due to a loss of elasticity in vessels over time, among other contributing factors like the increased incidence of chronic health conditions.
Changing hormones during menopause leads to several symptoms like hot flashes, headaches, and moodiness. One of the more debilitating symptoms of menopause is anxiety.
Many women wonder, can anxiety cause high blood pressure? It sure can! However, anxiety should not cause long term high blood pressure. Indeed, your blood pressure usually only rises when you are feeling particularly anxious and then lowers once you relax. Nonetheless, frequent spikes in your blood pressure from anxiety can damage your blood vessels over time. Furthermore, anxiety also leads to unhealthy habits like poor dietary choices and drinking alcohol.
How to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Blood pressure tends to rise in women after menopause. However, we know that many other factors may contribute to this condition. Here are some tips for lowering your risk of high blood pressure in menopause.
Lose excess weight, especially around your waistline
- Exercise regularly and walk daily
- Eat healthy foods and avoid too much sodium
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Decrease stress
- Limit your caffeine intake
- Maintain regular preventative check-ups with your doctor
- If you are given medication, make sure to take it as prescribed
So, does menopause cause high blood pressure?
Between changing hormone levels, natural age-related changes, and the symptoms that accompany the menopause transition, menopause may contribute to high blood pressure in women.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.