February is Heart Health month! Since heart disease is the number one killer of women (no, not cancer), it’s essential to raise awareness of cardiovascular diseases and encourage women to take charge of their heart health. February 4th was designated as #WearRedDay. Many women wore red to signify their recognition of this important month.
During menopause, we may find that our weight goes up, our temperature soars, but are you aware that even our blood pressure is prone to spike?
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 obvious.
It is essential to listen to your body because high blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to stroke and heart failure if left untreated. It can also contribute to dementia, kidney failure, vision problems, and sexual dysfunction. (That last one got your attention, didn’t it?)
One of my friends recently was diagnosed with high blood pressure. She woke up in the middle of the night with a horrific headache at the base of her skull. So she popped ibuprofen and managed to go back to sleep. The next night, deja vu. On the third night, she woke up and googled, “headache base of skull lying down.”
We all know it’s not usually a great idea to self-diagnose based on Internet search findings. 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 following day 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.
It turns out her self-diagnosis was spot on.
My friend is not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, hypertension is the most significant risk factor for women in the early postmenopausal years. About 30 percent to 50 percent of women develop hypertension before 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!
Blood pressure increases after menopause could be attributed to the hormonal changes of menopause (declining estrogen) or an increase in body mass index (BMI).
Here are a few tips that may help control your blood pressure both before and after menopause:
- 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.
If you cannot reduce your blood pressure, your doctor may want to put you on medication. According to Heart.org, here is the list of options:
- ACE inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
- Combined alpha and beta-blockers
- Central agonists
- Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors
Remember, high blood pressure can sneak up on you- sometimes even before you have any symptoms. iHealth makes an excellent wireless blood pressure wrist monitor for easy at-home checking. My husband and I have one. Ask your healthcare professional to check your blood pressure when you go for your yearly checkup! To help understand your blood pressure reading take a look at the chart from Heart.org.
Trust how you feel! 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, pick up that phone and reach out to your doctor. No pressure!
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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*EllenDolgen.com does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.