Menopause is a phase in our lives. It is a stage we cannot avoid. I talked to a friend the other day, and she mentioned how she thought menopause would be a liberating phase, and she was shocked by how wrong this notion was. And don’t get me wrong, menopause can be a liberating phase for some of us.
These are people who have mild symptoms and who cruise through menopause. They get excited that they no longer have periods and no longer have to worry about getting pregnant when they have sex. For the rest of us, it is a very stressful phase. We have severe symptoms that cripple the quality of life, and we spend a ton on treating these conditions.
Don’t get me wrong. Menopause is not a clinical condition. It is a normal phase of our lives, and every woman must go through it. But the phase is different for everyone. And the worst part is that this phase of our lives leaves us susceptible to a whole load of actual clinical conditions. Of these conditions, we will be discussing menopause and hypertension in this article.
You should already know that the hormones that decrease during menopause play other essential roles in our bodies, and when these roles are not catered to, our bodies struggle to adjust. Other aging-related changes, such as a slowed metabolism, can raise your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, and other diseases. When we go through this phase of our lives, our health becomes unique in that our health risks rise not only as we age but also when estrogen levels drop.
It is disturbing and a source of worry for us. And I know you might be saying that you have a clean bill of health, but this doesn’t matter. Menopause would put us at risk of these conditions even if we were in the pink of health before perimenopause. However, your state of health might increase or decrease this risk.
One of the conditions we risk contracting is heart disease, Women frequently believe breast cancer is their most significant hazard after menopause, but heart disease is the most serious threat they face. Approximately a decade following menopause, the incidence of cardiovascular attacks in women starts to rise, and nearly one-third of women develop a cardiovascular illness according to research.
We have to deal with the symptoms of menopause; we also have to deal with a very high chance of contracting heart diseases. And it seems that most of these conditions and the other symptoms of menopause we face are mainly due to the changes in our hormone levels.
The increased risk we run of hypertension is due to this change in hormone levels. I read a study recently and discovered that as estrogen levels fall, risk factors for coronary heart disease, particularly hypertension, become increasingly apparent. So not only is menopause making it difficult to sleep at night, there is a high chance that it could cause us to be rushed to the ER.
Reasons Why You May Have To Deal With Menopause And Hypertension
Knowing why we have to deal with this risk is essential. Firstly, to provide us with a bit of closure. When I learned that we had to deal with this risk, I wanted to know why. I tried to understand why we had to deal with this even though menopause is considered a normal physiological condition.
The other reason why we should understand the science behind this risk is so we can figure out a way to manage and prevent it. I want to believe that is the reason you looked enough to find yourself on this page. Let’s look at the various reasons you might have to deal with the twin combo of menopause and hypertension.
One thing that happens parallel to menopause is aging. Women reach menopause at an average age of 52. Our bodies naturally deteriorate as we age, with our metabolism slowing, arteries stiffening, and active state reducing. High blood pressure, often known as hypertension, can be caused by these reasons. We usually do not have any form of control over these processes. We can only try, but we cannot stop the aging process.
- A Decrease in Estrogen
The amount of estrogen in a woman’s body naturally declines during menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that aids in the flexibility of the blood vessels. Blood flow through the vascular system may occasionally force blood vessels to expand or contract. Remember how I mentioned tightened arteries earlier?
Nitric oxide, a naturally occurring molecule in our bodies, dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow. The kicker: the synthesis of nitric oxide is highly reliant on estrogen. Menopause is characterized by a drop in estrogen levels in the body, which causes blood vessel flexibility to diminish. The absence of estrogen associated with menopause has been linked to a woman’s lipid profile alterations. When paired with other aging factors, estrogen deficiency makes a menopausal woman’s heart vulnerable to breaking down.
- Increased Body Weight
Do you also know that the decreased estrogen level we face during menopause can increase weight? It is one of the women’s most common issues during menopause and is once again linked to a lack of estrogen. Menopause has been associated with reducing lean tissue and forming fat tissues distributed unevenly.
A lack of estrogen, which stimulates fat to move to the middle, is part of this higher risk of abdominal obesity. It is because estrogen is essential for proper fat distribution. When the body’s natural quantity of estrogen drops, fat in the body is forced to move to the abdominal region.
Women approaching menopause who have trouble sleeping, sweating, or having mood swings may find it challenging to consume a nutritious diet or exercise. It could result in metabolic and lifestyle changes that lead to the formation of abdominal fat.
The problem with this fat is that it is not just fat. It is not just a belly we can try to hide behind loose-fitting clothes. This fat has implications for our health. One of these implications is that our inclination towards hypertension increases. Yes, that weight you are gaining could be contributing to cardiovascular disorders.
- Lifestyle Choices
Sometimes we are the reason for our misfortunes. It is also the case here. And I know we do not believe this, but the way you live and the things you eat can also contribute to your chances of hypertension. As we age, we tend to stop paying attention to many things and get lazy about many other things.
Processed sugars are abundant in the majority of our diets. It really should not be the case. Refined sugars are one of the leading causes of pendulous abdominal fat. And we have already made it clear that this abdominal fat can lead to hypertension.
During menopause, we also tend to stagnate more than average. You will notice that you get lazier and lose energy quicker than you usually would. It might lead to an inactive life. But this is not necessarily good. The more sedentary our lives are, the more we risk developing this condition.
Also, I know the pleasures that smoking and drinking offer us. It is a way to hide from our stress, at least for a little bit. But these habits have a lot of negative connotations for the heart. Consuming these two substances increases your chances of having hypertension, which might be the least of your worries. The constant damage consumption of these substances can have on your body outweigh any benefits you think you might be getting from them.
Menopause can be a stressful phase in our lives. It could be attributed to hormonal changes and the accompanying discomforts such as hot flashes and difficulty sleeping.
Cortisol and other stress hormones rise in response to increasing stress levels. You might not know this, but cortisol is essential in producing belly fat. If you have read to this point, you probably know now that increased belly fat during menopause also increases the chances of hypertension. Chronic stress is harmful to one’s health in any case. Elevated heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, stomach reflux, depression, anxiety, and, in the long run, an increased risk of heart disease are all possible side effects of stress.
Sometimes the risk we run of getting hypertension is due to no fault of ours. As much as science is still studying this field, as of this point, no one has control over their genetic makeup. It means that if you have a family history of women who have hypertension during menopause, you are likely to also have hypertension during menopause. It is really due to no fault of yours. It is entirely beyond your control.
- Increased Sensitivity to Salt
Who knew that salt would be a reason why we might develop hypertension? They told us that too much salt could lead to this condition, but you kept your salt intake to a minimum, and you are sure that you have not increased the intake till now. Well, the answer is quite simple.
According to studies, salt sensitivity is higher in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women. What does this signify in terms of your blood pressure? In layman’s terms, it suggests you should limit your sodium intake even more than you did before. Excess salt in the bloodstream can result from sensitivity, causing increased water retention and blood vessel pressure.
Preventing Hypertension during Menopause
We have looked at the different reasons you are likely to get this condition during menopause. If you are yet to get this, then lucky you. I will tell you a few healthcare secrets. Read so you do not miss out. Are you ready? It is possible to prevent hypertension, even with all the factors working in its favor during menopause. You will soon find the best way to handle menopausal issues and prevent yourself from having this condition.
- Improve your Diet
A good diet should be common sense, don’t you think?. Eating a healthy diet is good for your body. It is specifically suitable for your heart. Two factors hugely determine blood pressure – the sodium and potassium contents of your body. They are highly influenced by what you eat.
Hence it would help if you tried reducing the amount of salt you consume and increasing the amount of potassium. Eating low-fat foods and enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is also helpful. Make nutritious and healthy meals and snack choices to save you from high blood pressure and its problems. Make a point of eating a variety of fresh fruits and veggies.
Consult your doctor about consuming a range of foods high in potassium, fiber, and protein while low in sodium (sodium) and saturated fat. These modest modifications will help many people maintain healthy blood pressure and prevent heart disease and stroke.
- Stay Active
We are aging, but we are not turning into statues. No need to stay cooped up on your couch nursing a cup of tea. Our lives are already sedentary enough. It would help if you were active and constantly on your feet and the best way to do this is through exercise. Exercise can aid in maintaining a healthy weight and reduce blood pressure. You can learn more about menopause and exercise in this article.
It would be best if you strived to receive at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Aerobic exercise, such as running, brisk walking, and swimming, is any activity that causes your heart to beat faster and your body to consume more oxygen than usual.
- Have a Healthy Weight
If you read this part, you know that being overweight can increase your risk of hypertension, especially during menopause. So it makes sense that if you are trying to prevent hypertension, you should try to do the opposite of being overweight as much as possible. Maintaining a healthy weight is good for avoiding the menopausal cardiovascular problem, but it also helps you reduce stress and stay healthy overall. It is a win-win situation because you look good and feel good simultaneously.
- Managing Stress
Stress, especially the chronic type, can also lead to hypertension. And I understand that this is not our fault. I mean, menopause can be a very stressful phase, and when that is compounded with the stress that comes with just living, it becomes a recipe for disaster.
It means we are very much at risk of suffering from this condition. It has never been more critical than now that we learn how to relax. But the problem is that this ever-moving and busy world does not allow us to make room for that. Learning to unwind and manage stress can help you feel better emotionally and physically and lower your blood pressure.
- Stop Smoking
I know you might be saying that cigarettes help you relax. So, there is no way it could be contributing to hypertension. I once had a very stretched-out argument with my friend, who insisted that her smoking had no other influence on her except to make her feel good.
And while this might seem true, in the long run, smoking is terrible. Cigarette smoking elevates blood pressure and increases your heart attack and stroke risk. Don’t start smoking if you don’t already. If you smoke, speak with your health care physician about the best method to quit.
- Stop Drinking
A glass of red wine today and another tomorrow, and slowly your blood pressure continues to rise. Yes, you read that right. Too much alcohol might cause your blood pressure to rise. It also adds more calories, potentially leading to weight gain. And you know that increased weight gain means your chances of getting hypertensive increases by many folds. If it is not necessary, you should stay away from alcohol but if you find yourself in a situation where you have to drink, as I did at my niece’s wedding last month, then make sure you do not take more than a glass.
- Sleep More
Sleeping more is hard, especially if you tend to have severe menopausal symptoms. How are you expected to sleep more if we deal with night sweats and insomnia at night? However, we can’t fight science. Getting adequate sleep is critical for your overall health, as well as for the health of your cardiovascular system. Heart disease, hypertension, and stroke are linked to not receiving enough sleep each night. So as much as it is difficult, we should strive to get enough sleep. There are a lot of tips and tricks we can use to make our bodies fall asleep so we don’t lack rest.
How to Manage Hypertension during Menopause
What if you already have hypertension? Is it too late for you? Well, not necessarily. In most cases, hypertension is managed, and its effects on the body are kept at bay. There are a few ways to do this, but in most cases, your doctor might require that you make a few lifestyle changes. Nothing drastic, basically what you would do if you were trying to prevent hypertension. Your doctor will advise you to:
- Have a heart-healthy diet. It should contain less sodium and a lot more potassium.
- Getting active. Abandon the sedentary lifestyle. Take walks, and join the local senior marathon. No matter what you do, stay active.
- Stay in shape. Try and maintain a body mass index that is positively healthy. Look good and feel good too.
- Limit the amount of alcohol and cigarettes you consume. These products are not suitable for your heart and would worsen the situation if you have hypertension.
- Stay relaxed, stay calm. Stress makes hypertension even worse, so ensure you are not subjected to chronic stress.
However, these lifestyle changes might sometimes not be enough to manage your condition. In this case, your healthcare provider might prescribe medications to alleviate your symptoms.
The sort of high blood pressure medication your doctor recommends is determined by your blood pressure readings and overall health. Two or more blood pressure medications are generally more effective than one. Finding the most efficient prescription or drug combination can be a trial and error process.
Considering that you are also going through a particular time in your life, i.e., menopause, you should also ask your doctor for blood pressure treatment that won’t affect your symptoms and avoid medication that has menopause as a contraindication.
The most common medications for treating hypertension are:
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
After menopause, blood pressure usually rises. Some doctors believe altering hormones associated with menopause is to blame for the surge. Other experts believe that a rise in menopausal women’s body mass index (BMI) is the more likely cause.
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause obesity and make heart rate hypersensitive to salt in the diet, resulting in elevated blood pressure. Although you have little control over your familial history, which increases your risk, you may reduce your total risk by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. It includes eating foods high in vegetables and low in beef and processed carbohydrates, exercising for at least 150 minutes per week, and giving up smoking.