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Categories > Heart Health > Blood pressure

Hypertension alert!
Why it’s dangerous

When it’s an emergency
When it’s an emergency

High blood pressure is usually a chronic condition that develops over time. However, in some women, blood pressure can rise rapidly and severely. Although there are typically no signs or symptoms, some people do experience dull headaches, dizzy spells or nosebleeds. Immediate medical attention is necessary to prevent:

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • damage to the main artery of your heart
  • angina
  • sudden loss of kidney function
  • impairment of the heart’s ability to pump
  • memory loss, changes in personality, difficulty concentrating, irritability or long-term loss of consciousness

As if the weight gain, night sweats and hot flashes aren’t enough, there’s a serious condition that menopausal women need to pay attention to—hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs because your heart is working extra hard to push blood through your arteries. Because blood pressure usually increases after menopause, postmenopausal women have an increased risk of high blood pressure compared to premenopausal women. What’s the link?

Research suggests that the hormonal and biochemical changes of menopause could be a contributor. Changes in hormone levels related to menopause can cause weight gain and an increased sensitivity to salt, which, in turn, can lead to hypertension.

Why it’s dangerous

You have hypertension if your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or greater. You may not even have any symptoms, but over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure damages the arteries, blocking blood flow to your heart, kidneys, brain, arms and legs. This damage can lead to many problems, including chest pain (angina), heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, aneurysm, brain damage and retinopathy (severe damage to the retina of the eye). The good news is that making healthy lifestyle changes can help you prevent or manage hypertension.

What to do?

You can lower your blood pressure by following these steps:

  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Be physically active for at least two to three hours a week.
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet that’s chock-full of fruits, vegetables, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and whole grains.
  • Keep salt to a minimum.
  • If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should take blood pressure medication.