If you’re a woman, chances are you do a monthly breast exam. But when is the last time you checked your blood pressure? It used to be thought that hypertension, and other heart concerns, were “men’s issues” but did you know that women, particularly women in menopause, are at even greater risk for high blood pressure levels than a man?
Menopause and High Blood Pressure
As your natural estrogen levels wane, your blood pressure can climb. This is nothing to take lightly. High blood pressure levels are linked with serious degenerative health issues like Type 2 diabetes and renal failure, and can shorten a woman’s lifespan by 10 to 20 years.
What’s even scarier is that high blood pressure levels often give you no visible symptoms, except perhaps a vague headache. This is why it’s often referred to as the “silent killer.”
Protecting Yourself From Menopause-Caused High Blood Pressure
- The most important thing you can do is test your high blood pressure regularly. High blood pressure levels mean you have a systolic blood pressure of 135 mmHg or greater, and/or a diastolic pressure of 85 mmHg or greater. A normal blood pressure is considered 120 over 80, or lower.
- Avoid taking daily painkillers. A report from the Harvard School of Medicine’s ongoing Nurses’ Health Study concluded that women are at increased risk for high blood pressure levels if they take daily doses of non-aspirin painkillers such as extra-strength acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Add blood pressure reducing foods to your diet. If you’re worried about menopause and high blood pressure, as well as keeping your heart healthy, you want to increase your intake of oatmeal and complex carbohydrates; low-glycemic vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, kale and especially celery, legumes; fruits; cold-water fish (especially fatty ones); organic eggs; olive oil; and nuts, seeds and flaxseed. My top three include sardines, oatmeal and seaweeds such as Wakame.
- Eat garlic. An Australian review of 11 studies show that it can help patients experiencing menopause and high blood pressure. In the studies, hypertensive patients were randomly given a garlic supplement or placebo found that garlic can lower blood pressure as effectively as some drugs. On average, the mega-analysis turned up blood pressure reductions of 8.4 systolic points, and 7.3 diastolic points. The higher a patient’s blood pressure was at the beginning, the more it was lowered by taking garlic.
- Get moving. Regular exercise is a sure way to help prevent and reduce high blood pressure levels often associated with menopause. Physical activity also lowers the levels of stress hormones circulating in the blood, which is important since stress tends to constrict arteries and drive up blood pressure. You want to strive to exercise three to four times a week.
Now it’s your turn: Are you experiencing menopause and high blood pressure?