Ever noticed how every single doctor’s appointment you had never missed a blood pressure (BP) check? It simply goes to show that your BP is one of the many determinants of your overall state of health.
Nowadays, high blood pressure (HBP) among menopausal women is too common. HBP often shows little to no obvious symptoms to indicate that something is wrong, and that’s why HBP got an alias, “the silent killer”!
The good news is you can easily lower your blood pressure! And it all starts with knowing the real causes and symptoms to watch out for. Stay with me as we talk further! This isn’t going to be just another science-loaded article, so sit back. Let’s get to know HBP deeper and discover natural ways to keep our blood flowing gracefully, even under pressure!
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (HBP) doesn’t only manifest in impatient and aggressive personalities! Even the most calm and relaxed person may also suffer from HBP. Commonly, we know it as “high blood pressure” but medically, it’s called “hypertension” (HTN).
Your blood pressure is determined by two factors:
- The amount of blood flowing through your arteries
- The amount of force your blood meets while your heart is pumping
When your blood pressure is always high, it means that your heart is pumping harder to distribute blood. BP increases if: (1) the heart pumps more blood or (2) your arteries become narrower. Eventually, the heart gets overworked and burnt out. Aging is a factor that causes changes in the blood vessel’s wall consistency and elasticity. With the decrease of your blood vessels’ performance due to these changes, the walls of your arteries get damaged because of the force of your blood flow. This degeneration of heart muscle cells plus the thicker cell walls are some of the factors on how your blood pressure is affected as you age.
Want to know more about blood pressure? Here’s a quick but detailed video by Dr. Berg [2:48]:
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure in Women
There are cases wherein high blood pressure happens “unexpectedly.” Meaning, your body has shown no symptoms at all, but you just woke up one day, knowing that your blood pressure is on surge! These instances are usually caused by unhealthy food choices. This happened in my case as I have been the biggest fan of licorice, not knowing that it is made of a compound that can skyrocket blood pressure if taken in excessive amounts – the Glycyrrhizin. So always be mindful of what you eat.
In a general sense though, high blood pressure in women develops over some period of time. And this has a series of corresponding factors. This type of HBP is called “Primary Hypertension” or “Essential Hypertension.” This is the most common type of hypertension, which usually takes many years to develop. It is claimed to result from an unhealthy lifestyle, environment and how your body changes, as midlife welcomes you.
Remember its nickname, “The Silent Killer?” It was coined because as it develops in your body slowly, the symptoms manifest slowly too.
When high blood pressure is persistent or is left untreated, expect more severe symptoms. Not to scare you or anything, but here’s a list to keep you informed:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pains
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeats/palpitations
- Blood in the urine
Wondering how to recognize if your blood pressure is high?
Start by Knowing Your Numbers!
Understanding blood pressure readings is no rocket science, but we still want to make sure that you truly know what those two numbers mean.
The two values are called systolic and diastolic values.
Systolic – This is the higher value found on top in a reading. It is the heart’s maximum pressure while beating.
Diastolic – This is the lower value found below in a reading. It is the pressure in the arteries in between heartbeats.
In a nutshell, normal blood pressure is 120/80. If you want to know more of the specifics, here’s a quick look!
- Pre-hypertension: 130-140 systolic and 80-90 diastolic
- Hypertension: 140 or up systolic and 90 or up diastolic
- Hypertensive Crisis: higher than 180 and higher than 120 diastolic
DID YOU KNOW: “mm Hg” – the unit of measurement for blood pressure readings, means “millimeters of mercury.” It is the same unit used for atmospheric pressures. There are electronic blood pressure monitors today, but mercury is still used as the standard unit for pressure measurement in medicine, due to its unparalleled accuracy!
Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure
As they say, there are things out of our control, and they may increase our risks for certain diseases. Here are some known risks for obtaining high blood pressure:
- Lack of sleep, especially from insomnia or sleep apnea
- Insulin resistance
- Overconsumption of table salt (you should use Himalayan salt or Celtic salt)
- Lack of regular exercise
- Poor nutrition (i.e., eating too much processed food and bad fats)
- Weak kidneys (leading to excess fluid in the body)
- Drugs such as appetite suppressants, birth control pills, corticosteroids, HRT, and NSAIDs
Despite these risks, there are many ways to prevent high blood pressure by taking control of our health as early as now.
Causes of High Blood Pressure in Women during Menopause?
Don’t be surprised by these statistics, but a whopping 55.2% of women are hypertensive compared to 44.8% men, the American Heart Association reported in 2013. It’s also one of the leading causes of death in females.
Many are afraid of breast cancer, but to see the picture, women have a greater risk of dying from heart disease than from all cancers combined. So, taking care of your heart is the best you can do. For these shocking revelations, let us explore the causes of high blood pressure in-depth:
- Women naturally have smaller blood vessels. Not only does it result in higher blood pressure, it also makes our blood vessels vulnerable to inflammation.
- Low estrogen levels during menopause also affect the health of your arteries. Estrogen prevents plaque build-up in the walls of your arteries and maintains your arteries´ elasticity. So, when it declines, more pressure is added to your arteries. The fluctuating hormones we experience also makes our arteries less elastic and more constrictive – contributing to high blood pressure.
- Some women gain extra pounds during menopause. Carrying a little extra weight puts more strain on your arteries, which makes you prone to high blood pressure.
- Menopause discomforts can sometimes be so annoying that it stresses you out and makes you feel anxious. This can also have a negative impact on your blood pressure.
- Hyperthyroidism during menopause may increase metabolism, and this in turn, may increase blood pressure.
Eileen of A.Vogel looks at how menopause affects high blood pressure in women [8:05]:
10 Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure in Women
1. Stress less, recover more.
Being stressed once in a while can be okay. But being stressed for days on end is a totally a different story. Chronic stress is the mother root of many diseases. Stress is actually one of the main causes of high blood pressure in women. As we go through menopause, our bodies face different kinds of stress. We undergo mental stress when we feel overwhelmed with the various events in our life. Most often, this kind of stress causes physical and psychological changes. Some physical symptoms of stress include headaches, upset stomach and increased heart rate and BP. Psychological or emotional symptoms are anxiety, low self-esteem and depression. Have you noticed these changes?
Constant and prolonged stress doesn’t give your body enough time to recover. Imagine being in a boxing match with life’s many stressors. That’s about 12 rounds of non-stop fight-or-flight mode, always deciding whether to fight or to defend. The body does not give up easily! It will work with each blow and fight stress by releasing cortisol and adrenaline rapidly. While your body wants the best for you, these hormones can cause more harm than good. They will pump up all your body processes, including your blood pressure. Eventually, your body will get exhausted from working too much – and a series of ills could result from this, such as heart attacks, kidney problems and other grave conditions.
When you feel overworked and tired — slow down and relax. Sleep is a powerful stress reliever. Following a regular sleep routine optimizes the body, improves concentration, regulates mood and sharpens the mind.
2. Watch out for processed food and sugar!
We should all know by now, that eating an excessive amount of carbs and sugar is bad for us. Technically speaking, doing so prompts our body to release high amounts of insulin and leptin, two hormones directly connected to body fat and obesity. When our insulin and leptin go beyond the normal range, our blood pressure is affected. But that’s not all: too much sugar in the body makes us resistant to insulin and leads to a variety of diseases, including diabetes.
So, what is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance happens when our cells become insensitive to insulin, a hormone produced in our pancreas. Insulin’s top priority is regulating our blood sugar by moving sugar from the blood into cells to be used as energy. With insulin resistance, your cells refuse to let sugar in because there’s already too much of it in the body. This leaves the sugar and insulin in our blood at high and destructive levels.
Insulin resistance also stops your cells from receiving magnesium. When cells do not get magnesium, blood vessels cannot fully relax to lead blood flow freely in our body, and this constriction, or tightening, raises our blood pressure.
High sugar levels in the blood could also damage our kidney – an organ that plays a major role in regulating blood pressure, among other things.
What do we need to do to avoid insulin resistance?
Stay away from processed foods. A general rule of thumb: The more we eat food without additives and preservatives, the healthier our body will be. Stick to real food and choose more fiber-rich foods instead. This includes veggies, nuts, seeds and low-sugar fruits like berries.
Another great tip: Combine a Keto Green lifestyle and intermittent fasting (IF)! Keto-green works against insulin as your stored fats are used as the main source of energy, instead of sugar. Also, IF proves to be a great solution to burn fat and lower BP.
When it comes to salt, our body needs a bit of sodium for proper muscle and nerve function. However, it’s best to use natural salt, such as Himalayan salt or sea salt.
3. Eat healthily
According to holistic health practitioner Ann Wigmore, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” This applies to all health concerns and is especially evident when regulating our blood pressure.
Meat is a great source of protein, but it’s time to tame your inner carnivore. Studies have shown that regularly consuming red meat is directly linked to getting higher blood pressure. For your protein needs, have seeds, nuts, fish, eggs or organic chicken instead! Whole foods and vegetables are also great sources of proteins. These foods have no cholesterol that may increase your BP.
Fill your plate with potassium-rich foods. Potassium lessens the effects of sodium in the body, hence reducing your BP. Sodium is a mineral found in most food we eat. However, too much of this substance leads to water retention and increases blood pressure.
4. Have a nice, warm, meal in the middle of the day.
A little tweak in your eating habits can make a huge difference. Take your first meal of the day around lunchtime. Research shows that intermittent fasting can help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. It also helps with weight loss and insulin resistance.
Eat a warm, cooked, relaxing main meal in the midday – European style!
5. Get yourself on the groove!
By groove, we mean exercise! Movement promotes heart health, as well as better blood circulation and blood distribution. All these may positively affect your blood pressure by bringing it down to its normal range.
6. Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol is a real Jekyll and Hyde! If you drink in small amounts, alcohol can actually lower your blood pressure. However, this gift turns into a curse when you drink too much. Alcohol also has plenty of calories, which could lead to unwanted weight gain — a risk factor for high blood pressure.
For people who are taking blood pressure medications, alcohol can actually lessen its effectiveness. Although alcohol isn’t the main common cause of high blood pressure among women, it’s good to be careful on that glass of wine, so it doesn’t turn into an entire bottle. If you truly enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, choose ecological or natural wines!
7. Say goodbye to smoking
Do you know that smoking increases blood pressure in just minutes? Nicotine is so potent that it can stimulate the heart to beat more and increase blood flow resistance, raising our blood pressure as a result. When we quit this habit, our BP goes back to normal and life expectancy increases! Now that’s a reward worth saying goodbye for.
8. Watch out for your weight
Weight gain during menopause is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure in women. Carrying the extra weight puts pressure on the blood vessels. This increases resistance, triggering the heart to use more force to keep the blood flowing. So, shed the pounds and keep your BP at bay!
Having high blood pressure doesn’t mean years of taking prescription medicines. There are lots of vitamins, minerals and even a natural hormone that can help lower BP! Here are some of them:
Vitamin D3 + Vitamin K2
Calcium is one of the most well-known minerals. But do you know that it can work against you at times? When deposited in the wrong areas, like your arteries, calcium can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart diseases.
D3, together with K2, is the superhero combo that will prevent this from happening! These vitamins are responsible for distributing calcium in the right places, so all its nutrients can be put to good use. D3 absorbs calcium in the small intestines, while K2 pulls calcium from your tissues and places them in your bones, which is where we want our calcium, especially as we get older. K2 also cleans up calcium in your arteries, kidneys, eyes and joints – preventing a wide range of diseases.
You can get your daily dose of vitamin D3 from grass-fed beef, organic eggs (especially the yolk), fatty fish (i.e. salmon), cod liver oil and cheese. K2 is a little trickier to find. Fermented soybeans, known as natto (a popular Japanese delicacy), is the richest source of natural K2, but it’s not available everywhere. Luckily, some foods contain sufficient amounts of K2, like trout, herring and eel. K2 can also be found in salmon and shrimp, but in small quantities.
Interested to know more how D3 and K2 interact and why they are such a good team? Watch this video by Dr. Vikki Petersen! [8:54]
Magnesium is one of the most helpful minerals in the body to keep our blood vessels and heart muscles healthy. When our cardiovascular system is working at its optimum levels, blood pressure is properly regulated. Some magnesium-rich foods include fresh green vegetables, soybeans, figs, corn, apples, nuts and seeds rich in oil (i.e. pumpkin seeds). Taking magnesium as a supplement is a good idea at this age. Many doctors recommend it! If you want to know more about its benefits, read our article Magnesium Benefits.
Vitamin E + Iron
Like your D3 and K2, vitamin E and iron also have great teamwork when it comes to lowering blood pressure. Iron helps increase the oxygen-carrying ability of blood, while vitamin E helps the heart muscle use oxygen more efficiently – both properties are effective in lowering the heart’s workload.
Foods rich in vitamin E include spinach, vegetable oils, avocado, almonds, shrimp and broccoli. Iron is available in liver, meats, fish, tofu, beans, seeds and dried fruits.
Melatonin helps you get a good night’s sleep. Surprisingly, it’s also a powerful agent for lowering blood pressure! As you age, you get less and less of this hormone. This is why experts suggest considering supplements if you’re over 50.
10. Check your blood pressure regularly
With so many digital blood pressure devices out there, checking your BP is easier than ever. Home monitoring allows you to keep tabs on your BP and alert you of potential health problems. Remember the blood pressure ranges we mentioned earlier? Keep those in mind when checking your BP!
I personally have my own BP device at home, and I check my BP every week.
Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT)
MHT covers a range of hormonal treatments that can reduce menopausal symptoms. It can come in various forms such as tablets, patches, gels or vaginal treatments. The naturally produced hormones in your body decline as you approach menopause. This is where MHT comes in! MHT is a process wherein synthetic or natural female hormones are used to replace and make up for the decline of natural hormones — primarily estrogen.
While experts are continually learning about the effects of estrogen in the body, studies have shown that estrogen affects almost every tissue or organ system in the body — including the heart and blood vessels.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), one form of MHT, is advised to be taken before your arteries start to harden. If your arteries have already hardened, commonly after the “estrogen window”, HRT’s risks could outweigh its benefits. It could possibly cause or worsen pre-existing high blood pressure. The most common hormones used for HRT contain estrogenic compounds made from the urine of a pregnant mare — an adult female horse.
North American Menopause Society (NAMS) says that identifying the appropriate HRT type, dose and formulation should be in accordance to your unique needs. How we take HRT and for how long is also important. To reduce risks, regular evaluation of HRT use is definitely essential.
Another form of MHT is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT). OB-GYN Dr. Christiane Northrup says that BHRT is theoretically safer. Bioidentical hormones are man-made hormones, derived from plant estrogens — which are chemically identical to those that our body produces. It can balance your hormones and requires little to no therapy care, but it’s best to be monitored regularly once you begin BHRT, to evaluate your body’s response. It is given in individualized doses according to your needs, while HRT is commercially prepared and given in standard doses.
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed new guidelines for the use of MHT, due to the data gathered on heart-related risks that may come with it. MHT can lower your blood pressure when taken sooner, during your estrogen window. If you take MHT at a later age, it can raise your BP because your arteries have already hardened. With this, AHA does not recommend MHT, if the only goal is to lower blood pressure.
Speak with your doctor if you are considering MHT. It is important that your doctor should be able to tailor the type of hormone treatment best suited for you!
If you want to know more about how MHT can relieve menopause symptoms, visit our article here!
10 Quick Tips to Lower High Blood Pressure in Women
- Breathe properly – By this, we mean slow, deep breaths drawn from our stomach or diaphragm. When we do this, we regulate the stress hormones that elevate renin — a kidney enzyme responsible for raising our blood pressure.
2. Get some sunshine – The Journal of Investigative Dermatology explains that exposure to sunlight can bring down the levels of nitric oxide in the skin and blood, which then decreases blood pressure.
4. Drink some beetroot juice – You may hate the idea of drinking beetroot juice now, but you’ll learn to love this vegetable because of its BP lowering properties. Nitrates in beetroot juice have been found to promote better oxygen levels in the blood, which in turn reduces BP.
5. Eat more blueberries – These berries are best eaten raw but can also be added to your smoothie. Experts say that when you eat blueberries raw, you take full advantage of its powerful antioxidant property, which can lower your BP.
6. Take an afternoon siesta – That afternoon nap that you keep ignoring? It will help you lower BP! Researchers from Greece studied 212 men and women in their 60s and found that those who took naps lowered their BP by 5 mmHg.
7. Laugh whenever you can! – Laughter is indeed still the best medicine! When you laugh, you suppress cortisol (the stress hormone that increases BP). So, keep laughing out loud and stay happy!
8. Listen to classical music – Doing so stimulates the production of hormones that produce calming and relaxing effects on the body. Nessun Dorma by Puccini and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony Adagio are even highly suggested because they follow the body’s natural 10-second waves of blood pressure control!
9. Meditate – Relaxing the mind and body through meditation, even for just five short minutes every day, can do wonders for your blood pressure! Meditation releases all our tension and pent up emotions out of the body. It then releases happy hormones (endorphins, serotonin, dopamine) into the body, which have BP-lowering effects! Having a meditation app on your phone can be a good idea since you can always have it with you. “Insight Timer” is a great one!
10. Be intimate with your partner – Engaging in intimate activities with your partner, not only builds a better relationship, but also lowers blood pressure, because of the relaxing “love” hormone, oxytocin!
Top 9 Foods that Normalizes Blood Pressure
- Flax seeds
- Raw cacao
- Olive oil
- Raw nuts
- Fatty fish
- Coconut water
When I went to the doctor with my high blood pressure, they told me to simply slow down. They did not give me any tools on what I could have done. They did not ask me about what I ate, when my high BP was actually caused by my excessive eating of licorice — something that I found out myself! Of course, I was then set on the classic way: taking medication to disarm “the silent killer”.
Based on personal experience, I realized the importance of learning to be your own investigator.
Look over your stress, your food and your life! Take these friendly advices and implement them in your life too. It will not only help your heart, but rest assured that it will give you an overall good health!
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