Going Through Menopause? Beware of this Dangerous Condition
It's no secret that a woman’s body goes through many changes during menopause. But one symptom, high blood pressure, can cause life-threatening damage to your heart and blood vessels if not caught and treated early on.
How Menopause Affects Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measures the flow of oxygenated blood through your body and internal organs. The two numbers represent systolic and diastolic levels, which indicate the pressure of blood being pumped to the arteries and the time your heart is at rest between beats. Any reading higher than 130/80 mm Hg is considered stage one hypertension and should be treated.
Several factors that might cause menopausal women to see an increase in their blood pressure levels include:
Hormone fluctuation. During menopause, a decrease in estrogen reduces metabolic rates, increases and shifts the body’s fat stores, and causes arteries to narrow and become less flexible. All of this contributes to a higher risk of coronary heart diseases, including hypertension.
Aging. On average, American women reach menopause in their early 50s. This timing overlays other age-related shifts such as reduced physical activity, salt sensitivity and dietary changes that might include added caffeine, alcohol and processed foods, all of which are linked with hypertension.
Stress. Menopausal changes and symptoms can usher in added stress and anxiety. Frustration over weight gain, disrupted sleep patterns due to night sweats and emotional tension surrounding mood swings all can combine with a woman’s physical changes to elevate her blood pressure levels.
Genetics. As with many conditions, a woman’s genetics can contribute up to 50 percent of how her body reacts to menopausal changes, from the age the process begins to where added weight may accumulate.
Monitor Blood Pressure and Diet
The best way to stay aware of your blood pressure is to check it regularly at home. Keep a daily log of your measurements, noting anything that may have affect the results. At-home blood pressure monitoring kits are available online and at most pharmacies, and free, or low cost, machines can often be found at drug stores and gyms.
Additionally, added weight may be triggering your higher blood pressure. A nutritionist may recommend keeping a detailed food diary to track where added sodium and fat may be sneaking into your diet.
Tips To Lower Blood Pressure
The first, and simplest, approach is diet and exercise. Adopt DASH eating habits that follow a diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Reduce added fats and sugar, and be mindful of hidden sodium in processed and restaurant foods.
Increase your activity level. Whether walking for cardiovascular health or weight training to restore muscle mass, adding 30 minutes a day of light- to medium-intensity exercise can help lower your blood pressure and increase heart function.
If your issues are directly related to hormonal deficiencies, meet with your doctor to see if hormone replacement therapy is an option. While it can offer symptom relief and help combat other concerns such as osteoporosis, it might not be a solution for women who are in certain high-risk categories.
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