By Melissa Kluczynski, MS
A common myth is that women rarely have high blood pressure. In fact, more than half of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure are women. Risk factors for high blood pressure in women include: 1) being 20 lbs. or more overweight, 2) have a family history of high blood pressure, and 3) menopause (when menstruation stops).
High blood pressure tends to start around the time of menopause, perhaps due to hormonal changes and/or weight gain. Changes in hormones during menopause can lead to weight gain and can make blood pressure more sensitive to salt in the diet which can lead to high blood pressure. Some types of hormone replacem0ent therapy can also lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure tends to be treated less often in women over the age of 45 because it is passed off as a sign of menopause. Plus, there are usually no warning signs or symptoms of high blood pressure. However, ignoring or delaying diagnosis of high blood pressure can also delay necessary treatment. If left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the arteries (provide blood to the heart) and lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, eye damage, or heart failure.
Early treatment is vital and can lead to better quality of life and even a longer life! Treatment for high blood pressure usually involves lifestyle changes (e.g., quit smoking, lose weight) and/or medications prescribed by your doctor.
To maintain a healthy blood pressure before and after menopause, it is important to have regular physical examinations and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Some tips for staying healthy are:
Maintain a healthy weight
Eat heart-healthy foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables)
Reduce processed foods and salt
Exercise most days of the week
Limit or avoid alcohol
High blood pressure and women. American Heart Association: Go Red for Women. Accessed January 18, 2022. https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/know-your-risk/high-blood-pressure-and-women
Mankad, R. Menopause and high blood pressure: What’s the connection? Mayo Clinic. January 4, 2022. Accessed January 18, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/menopause-and-high-blood-pressure/faq-20058406
Schimelpfening, N. High blood pressure in women often written off as menopausal symptoms. Healthline. February 4, 2021. Accessed January 18, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/high-blood-pressure-in-women-often-written-off-as-menopausal-symptoms
Melissa Kluczynski holds a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology from the University at Buffalo and she is currently working as a Research Associate in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. Her research interests include chronic disease prevention and women's health.