Menopause and High Blood Pressure

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Why is it that everything with menopause goes up, up, up? Our weight goes up, our temperature soars, and even our blood pressure is prone to spike! What gives?

While it’s easy to spot rising body temperatures (red faces and sweat-drenched clothes) and expanding waistlines (busted buttons and zippers and snaps — oh my!), an increase in your blood pressure may not be so apparent.

Take, for example, the recent experience of one of my colleagues. One night, she woke up in the middle of the night with a horrific headache at the base of her skull. So she popped an ibuprofen and managed to go back to sleep. The next night, deja vu. On the third night, she woke up and entered “headache base of skull lying down” in the web search engine.

We all know it’s not usually a great idea to self-diagnose based on Internet search findings, and indeed, my colleague found everything from migraines (she had these before, but said this headache felt different) to an abundance of spinal fluid to brain cancer to high blood pressure.

Trying not to panic (after all, it could raise her blood pressure), she called her doctor the next morning and managed to get an appointment the same day, citing her concern over elevated blood pressure. Even though she had low blood pressure her whole life, monitored her salt intake and exercised regularly, high blood pressure was the only diagnosis that seemed plausible.

Turns out, her self-diagnosis was spot on.

My colleague is not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, hypertension is by far the most significant risk factor for women in the early postmenopausal years. About 30 percent to 50 percent of women develop hypertension before the age of 60. And it’s not fun: mild to moderate hypertension may cause complaints such as non-specific chest pain, sleep disturbances, headaches, palpitations, hot flushes, anxiety, depression, and tiredness. Just reading this can make a woman anxious!

The Mayo Clinic agrees, suggesting that blood pressure increases after menopause could be attributed to the hormonal changes of menopause or an increase in body mass index (BMI). Many doctors prescribe transdermal (cream or a patch) estradiol HT (hormone therapy) for women under 60 early in their menopausal journey to help keep cholesterol levels down since there is lower risk of thrombosis (blood clots) with transdermal HT. According to the National Institutes of Health, in women with severe menopausal complaints and who are at low risk for cardiovascular heart disease, the use of HT in the years proximal to menopause may be very helpful. According to the WHI, women who start HT before age 60 decreased their overall mortality.

To control your blood pressure both before and after menopause, the Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Reduce processed foods and salt in your diet.
  • Exercise on most days of the week.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. (Sorry!)
  • If you smoke, stop.

Your doctor will consider prescribing medicines if your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher — the threshold for high blood pressure. However, you may want to opt for beta blockers instead of calcium-channel blockers, as the latter have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that in women aged 55 to 74; use of calcium-channel blockers for 10 or more years was associated with higher risks of both ductal and lobular breast cancer.  Other medications used to treat hypertension include enzyme inhibitors, receptor blockers, and diuretics.

According to  Harvard Health Publications and Dr. Deepak Bhatt, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Integrated Interventional Cardiovascular Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “The risk of developing high blood pressure over a lifetime is extremely high if a person lives long enough. For post-menopausal women, this is particularly true. By the time they reach their 60s and 70s, 70 percent of women have high blood pressure. After age 75, that figure rises to nearly 80 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.”

If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart failure. It also can also contribute to dementia, kidney failure, vision problems (especially for those with diabetes), and sexual dysfunction. (That last one got your attention, didn’t it?)

Remember, high blood pressure can sneak up on you- sometimes even before you have any symptoms.  Ask your HCP (healthcare professional) to check your blood pressure when you go for your yearly checkup! iHealth makes a wonderful wireless blood pressure wrist monitor for easy at-home checking.

Trust how you feel! Like my colleague, you know your body better than anyone else. I encourage you to stay in tune with your body so that when something doesn’t feel right you pick up that phone and reach out to your HCP.   No pressure!

Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

Click here to download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.

 

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Diego

    Some kid about menopause…but this is no kidding matter! Thanks once again Ellen, for supporting women in reaching their healthiest selves!

    • Exactly! It is important to listen to your body and get the help you need and deserve.

  • doreenmcgettigan

    I have been battling dangerously high blood pressure for 8-years. You got my attention with the risk of breast cancer will definitely be talking to my doctor about that. A good friend believed she could control her hypertension on her own and 2-years ago she had a series of strokes. She is now paralyzed on her right side and she cannot speak. She is 57. Terrifying. I am so glad you shared this information, it is no joke!

    • I am so very sorry to hear this about your friend. It is best to go to a doctor and get these kinds of symptoms checked out – immediately. I do these blogs so that women can be proactive about their health. Thanks for sharing the info! Together, we can help the sisterhood stay on top of these issues.

  • Cheryl Nicholl

    Ya know what I want to know?—- What about men and MENopause and high blood pressure?

    • Good question! Currently, I have my hands full with the issues with the vagina! Not literally, of course!

  • This is a side effect of menopause that is not to be taken lightly or self medicated with herbs and supplements. Thanks Ellen for your informative post!

  • Thank you for sharing, my daughter was just saying yesterday that she has been having to same kind of headache. I will be making her go to the doctors ASAP now.

    • Always good to be conservative and check these things out. Good Luck!

  • Lois Alter Mark

    Seriously, you teach me something new every time I read your blog. Thanks for all this important – and life-saving – information.

  • I had no idea that your blood pressure could also be affected by menopause. There is always something to learn on these pages. Thank you.

    • I am think the big question is, what isn’t affected by menopause??? It seems my knees are wrinkling now. Go figure!!!!

  • Mindy Morrell

    Thanks for the information. I went into menopause early (late 40s/early 50s) due to an endometrial ablation I had because of very heavy periods and risk of blood clots (I had one DVT after trying birth control therapy for the heavy periods with no repeat DVTs after stopping the birth control pills and 6 mo. on coumadin). I am now 60 and lately, I have had trouble maintaining a healthy weight, even though I watch what I eat and exercise for 30 mins several times a week. I also have terrible hot flashes at night. So after reading this article today, I have decided to make an appointment with my OB-GYN to discuss transdermal HT therapy. My blood pressure, thank goodness, is still good (usually around 130/75) but I don’t want to run the risk of it getting higher as I have a family history of cardiac disease. I was taking a statin drug but stopped because it made me feel terrible. I would rather reduce the risk of heart disease by eating well, exercising and using the hormone therapy if it turns out to be a good option for me. Thanks so much for the information on this blog/newsletter.

    • Mindy, the window of hormone therapy is within 10 years of menopause. It is not recommended that a woman start hormone therapy at 60 or beyond. However, if you are dealing with hot flashes, maybe try Remfeminin. This is black cohosh. When I interviewed the doctors a Yale Cancer Center they told me that they recommend it for their cancer patients. It seems to help many women with hot flashes. Here is a link to the blog (scroll down to the section called treatment of menopause: http://ellendolgen.com/2015/01/breast-cancer-and-menopause/

  • Wow, menopause can affect everything! My pressure has always been good thx God. This is vital information to know. I’ll be sure to spread the word and share!

    • Thank goodness, no high blood pressure for moi either. Thanks for sharing the info with the sisterhood.

  • Sheryl Kraft

    So important to be aware of this – thanks for educating women on this important issue. And we CAN do something about it – even more important to catch it and be aware of it.

    • So true, Sheryl! If a woman is experiencing high blood pressure it is so important to get it checked out.

  • Vera Collins

    Thank you Ellen! I am so glad I found your page. I’m not full on menopause yet. But some days it sure feels like it. lol
    I am looking forward to many Monday’s of learning from you.

    • Haha! I totally get that. If you ever have any questions or need support, you know where to come!

  • Barbara millard

    My dr put me on Losartan Potassium for high blood pressure, is that raises breast cancer?
    Also high cholesterol with menopause. I’m 65ys and in my tenth year, is it to late for the HTR patch?
    Thanks

    • Barbara, the current recommendations say not to start HT after the age of 60, but rather within 10 years of menopause.