High Blood Pressure and Menopause - What's the Connection?

Learn why menopause affects your blood pressure and what you can do about it

For many years, the scientific community believed women were safe from high blood pressure, heart attacks, and heart disease in general. Doctors and researchers now realize this isn't true. After menopause, women are at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Learn why and what you can do about it.

Menopause and High Blood Pressure

The belief that women don't suffer from high blood pressure came about because women do have lower blood pressure than men do - but only during the reproductive years. During the time a women begins have regular menstrual cycles until she no longer has them and begins menopause, women do, in fact, have lower blood pressure than men. After menopause and the age of 60, woman have a systolic (the top number) blood pressure reading that is generally 6 points higher than men.

There are several theories as to why women have higher blood pressure after menopause. Many doctors now believe the increase in blood pressure after menopause happens because of the hormonal changes that happen after menopause. Other medical professionals think the rise in blood pressure may be because women generally gain weight at this time and high blood pressure is associated with weight gain.

Some doctors feel the hormonal changes make your blood pressure more reactive to salt in your diet, which leads to higher blood pressure. Still others think that hormone replacement therapy may be to blame.

While doctors aren't exactly sure what causes blood pressure to rise in menopausal women, you can still control your blood pressure and avoid heart disease by following a few simple guidelines.

Control Menopause-Induced Hypertension

You don't have to accept high blood pressure after menopause as status quo. Below are some simple ways you can avoid having high blood pressure.

Exercise Regularly - A strong heart means lower blood pressure. Studies show that exercising 30 to 60 minutes, four to five days per week can lower your blood pressure by as much as 4 to 9 points.

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet - Increase the amount of fiber and antioxidants by including more servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Cut out junk food and fast food, as these foods are high in fats, sugar and low in fiber.

Lose Weight - You can easily lower your blood pressure several points by losing 5% or 10% of your body weight. This isn't as difficult as it sounds. If you exercise regularly and replace junk food with healthy food, you'll lose this amount in no time.

Reduce Salt Intake - For about 25% of the population, salt increases blood pressure. You may be one of the lucky ones whom salt doesn't affect, but it's still a good idea to cut back on the amount of salt in your food. Try to keep your salt levels lower than 2,400 to 1,500 mg per day.

Avoid Alcohol and Smoking - Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day raises the risk of heart attacks and it can interfere with blood pressure medication. Smoking causes a whole host of health problems. Don't let smoking add to your blood pressure problems.

While it still isn't clear what exactly causes a woman's blood pressure to rise after menopause, that doesn't mean that you have to accept it. Follow these easy guidelines, stay active, eat healthy, enjoy life and avoid high blood pressure.

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