Women's Health

3 Reasons Menopause Changes Your Blood Pressure

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By Deirdre Mattina, M.D.

When women enter menopause, numerous changes occur in the body, from biological and hormonal changes to, you guessed it – changes in blood pressure – and usually for the worse.

This unwanted change in blood pressure happens for a variety of reasons, but it is manageable and even preventable through maintaining a healthy weight, following a balanced, mostly plant-based diet, and getting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. Here are some of the ways menopause is affecting your blood pressure:

  1. You’re getting older. The average age women go through menopause is 52. As we get older, our bodies naturally begin to decline – our metabolism slows, our arteries stiffen and we become less active. All of these factors can contribute to high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), especially those we can control like our activity level and weight.
  1. You’re losing estrogen. During menopause, the level of estrogen in a woman’s body naturally decreases. Remember those stiffened arteries I mentioned above? Nitric oxide, a compound in our bodies, works to expand blood vessels for better blood flow. The kicker: Nitric oxide is heavily dependent on estrogen production, and when estrogen levels decrease, our arteries don’t fully dilate and our blood needs to pump harder to circulate the body, which can help lead to increases in blood pressure.
  1. You’re becoming more salt sensitive. Studies have shown that post-menopausal women are more salt sensitive than their pre-menopausal peers. So what does this mean for your blood pressure? In straightforward terms, it means you have to watch your sodium intake. A sensitivity can lead to excess salt in the bloodstream, which causes increased water retention and pressure on the blood vessels.

Menopause is a natural part of life, and through following a healthy diet, getting sufficient exercise, not smoking and keeping stress to a minimum, you can prevent – or lower – high blood pressure.

It’s also important to note that high blood pressure typically doesn’t produce any symptoms until it’s very high – for example, you have a stroke or other serious medical incident. Regular checkups with a doctor and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the best ways to ensure your blood pressure stays at a normal level.

For an appointment or to find a doctor or certified nurse midwife specializing in menopause, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

The Henry Ford Women’s Heart Center is designed to provide life-changing support to women with heart disease or cardiovascular risk factors. Learn more about how a comprehensive Lifestyle Enhancement Visit may help you.

Written By:

Deirdre Mattina, M.D.

Deirdre Mattina, M.D., is a Senior Staff Cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital and Director of the Women’s Heart Center. She began her medical training at the University of Michigan Medical School and went on to complete her Internal Medicine Residency at Columbia University in New York City and, finally, her Cardiology Fellowship at Henry Ford Hospital. Dr. Mattina is board certified in Internal Medicine, General Cardiology, Echocardiography and Nuclear Cardiology. While she cares for patients with all types of cardiac conditions and risk factors, she has a special interest in preventive cardiology, women’s health and healthcare disparities.

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