Hypertension & Menopause – How Hypertension Affects Women
By Maria Wright, MD, NCMP
For far too long, heart disease was considered a “men’s health” issue. That thinking has slowly shifted, thanks to more in-depth research and an increased awareness among women about their risk of heart disease.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a chronic heart condition that means the force of the blood against your artery walls is too high. Hypertension affects an estimated 103 million individuals in the United States, according to the American Heart Association – and nearly half are women.
How hypertension affects women
Women have unique risk factors when it comes to high blood pressure – from pregnancy to birth control and menopause, different times of our lives comes with different risk factors. It’s also important to note that a women’s risk of high blood pressure greatly increases as she ages.
The percentage of women who have high blood pressure jumps from 33% among 45-54 year olds to almost 66% of women aged 65-74. That risk climbs higher as we age: It’s estimated that 81.2% of women age 75 and older have high blood pressure. As we get older, we’re also more likely to have high blood pressure than men.
One key factor is menopause. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why menopause is connected to high blood pressure, but it’s thought that falling estrogen levels after menopause may hinder the body’s natural ability to fight oxidative stress, and in turn, lead to high blood pressure.
Blood pressure: More than a number
The American Heart Association put out new guidelines for healthy blood pressure readings in the past few years:
- Normal: less than 120/less than 80
- Elevated: 120-129/less than 80
- Hypertension (stage 1): 130-139/80-89
- Hypertension (stage 2): 140 or higher/90 or higher
- Hypertensive crisis: 180/120
These guidelines can help you and your doctor assess your health and identify the right approach to helping you manage your blood pressure. Your doctor should be looking at much more than these two numbers, including whether your pre-menopausal, perimenopausal or menopausal, pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant or using certain types of birth control.
Research hasn’t (yet) identified if any treatments are more effective for women than men, but there are many things you can do to help control your high blood pressure. Your doctor may talk to you about:
- Taking your blood pressure at home
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Exercising more
- Finding ways to reduce stress and improve your mental health
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight
- Taking medication to help control your blood pressure
Knowing your blood pressure – and understanding your unique health needs as a woman – is just the first step in creating a healthier, happier lifestyle. If you have any concerns about your blood pressure or any health issue, please contact us. We’re here to answer your questions and find the treatment and support that’s right for you.