How does menopause affect blood pressure?
Research has found a link between menopause and high blood pressure, where more women are being first diagnosed after menopause (1-3). They believe this is mainly due to the hormonal shifts seen in menopause, where both estrogen and progesterone levels decrease. This reduction in hormones has a ripple effect in many areas of the body and can influence blood pressure in many ways, for example:
Blood vessel elasticity – Estrogen has an influence on the walls of our arteries. It allows them to be more elastic and stretch, helping maintain regular blood pressure. As estrogen decreases during menopause, this can cause the walls of our blood vessels to become more rigid and less elastic, resulting in an increase in pressure. (1)
Salt balance – Menopause also has an impact on how our body manages salt. When estrogen naturally decreases during menopause, our body is less efficient at removing salt through the kidneys. This change in hormone levels causes our blood to become thicker and more sensitive to the salt we eat. (1)
Inflammation – Menopause has an influence on the nervous system responsible for the fight or flight response called the sympathetic nervous system. When estrogen decreases in the body, this part of the nervous system becomes more active. This can cause a tightening of the blood vessel walls and can lead to an increase in stress throughout the body. Unfortunately, this inflammation has a negative influence on many of our bodily systems. It can lead to increased blood sugar levels and weight gain (particularly around our mid-section), and place us at higher risk of heart disease. (1)
Therefore, given the link between menopause and high blood pressure, it’s important to understand the symptoms, and the menopause and high blood pressure remedies you can adopt to reduce your risk of heart disease.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure during menopause?
The most common symptoms of high blood pressure during menopause include:
- Tightness in the chest
- Palpitations (fast heartbeat or a pounding heart)
- Feeling fatigued
However, it’s important to note that menopause and high blood pressure often have similar symptoms, and therefore may be overlooked or misdiagnosed. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s important to visit your GP to have your blood pressure checked, and to assess your overall health in general.
Other high blood pressure symptoms that are commonly overlooked during menopause include:
- Hot flushes
- Sleeping disturbances
- A reduction of sex drive/arousal
These symptoms are related to blood flow around the body and can be a sign that blood pressure is increasing (1)
Is it normal to develop high blood pressure during menopause?
Developing high blood pressure during or after menopause is not uncommon, where 30-60% of women reportedly experience the condition over the age of 60. (2)aware of your blood pressure (3).
While these statistics are high, there are several menopause and high blood pressure remedies that you can try to help reduce your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
What lifestyle changes can help manage high blood pressure during menopause?
Here are some simple menopause and high blood pressure remedies you can try to manage your blood pressure:
Aim for 5 serves of vegetables and 2 fruit each day
Increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, especially bananas or leafy greens can increase how much potassium you consume each day. Potassium helps relax the walls of our blood vessels and therefore has a direct impact on blood pressure.
Eat more fibre
Eating more fibre has been shown to reduce blood pressure. (4) If you’re not sure where to start, here are some simple tips to try to boost your intake each day:
Enjoy a variety of different fruit and vegetables, and keep the skin on (as that’s where most of the fibre lives)
Swap white bread, pasta or rice for whole grain varietites
Try a handful of nuts and seeds (such as chia or pumpkin) as a healthy snack
Add lentils, chickpeas or beans to your favourite recipes e.g. red lentils to your bolognese sauce or black beans to Taco Tuesdays
Be mindful of salt
Eating too much salt can elevate our blood pressure. Here are some simple ways you can reduce salt in your everyday diet:
When it comes to reducing salt, it can take a couple of weeks for our taste buds to adjust. Aim to gradually reduce your intake versus going cold turkey to make the process easier.
Be active more often
Exercise strengthens our heart and allows it to be more effective with each pump. If our heart does not have to work as hard, less pressure is needed to move blood around the body. (5,6). Also, movement can reduce the symptoms of both menopause and high blood pressure, so its one of the best menopause and high blood pressure remedies to try
Here are some top tips to get your moving more:
Start with a type of movement that you enjoy. This may be walking, yoga or even going to a gym class.
Start somewhere small and build up the exercise. This helps build consistency, helping find movement in your routine.
If you struggle with movement or motivation, using it as a social occasion may help. Walking with a friend or going to the gym with a training buddy can help
Take Home message
Menopause can be a difficult or uncertain period of life for many women, and a new diagnosis of high blood pressure can be challenging. However, changes in lifestyle habits such as improving the quality of our diet, reducing salt and increasing activity levels can all help to manage menopause and high blood pressure.
Seeking individualised support from an Accredited Practising Dietitian can be a great way to help manage both the symptoms of menopause and high blood pressure while improving your overall health. If you’re interested to gain insights into the experiences of our valued clients, we encourage you to read Master Menopause Australia reviews.
Book your free assessment to learn more about our programs at Master Menopause Australia and to speak to one of our friendly staff today.