Understanding blood pressure
Blood pressure, (BP) is the measure of the pressure caused by the movement of blood through the cardiovascular system. It is measured by two readings written like a fraction, e.g., 120/80. The top or first number measures the “systolic pressure” which is caused by the heart contracting and forcing the blood through the blood vessels. The bottom or second number is the “diastolic pressure” which is caused by the heart relaxing.
When you listen to the heart through a stethoscope you will hear a loud beat closely followed by a quieter one. The loud one is the heart contracting and the quieter one is the relaxing beat.
What should my blood pressure reading be?
A “normal blood pressure” depends greatly on the individual. There are many factors that can affect blood pressure such as age, fitness level, weight, etc. A good guideline is a BP of around 120/80mmHg. A high BP is considered anything above 140/90mmHg if taken at the GP surgery or 135/85mmHg if taken at home. (There is a condition known as “White Coat Syndrome” which causes the blood pressure to rise simply by the stress of attending the surgery which is considered when BP is taken.)
There are many causes that can lead to high blood pressure or Hypertension, e.g., age over 65 years; family history; smoking; high alcohol intake; poor diet; lack of exercise or being overweight or obese, especially extra weight around the abdomen.
The risks of continually raised blood pressure is great and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, blood vessel problems, aneurysms, renal problems and vascular dementia. Hypertension is treated by lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication.
The role of oestrogen and blood pressure
Pre-menopause Oestrogen plays a vital role in the protection and functioning of the blood vessels. It causes “vasodilation” which is where the blood vessels open wider allowing the blood to flow more freely. Also, it helps to maintain safe levels of cholesterol and reduces inflammation within the vessels.
Perimenopause and menopause lead to a decrease in Oestrogen levels leaving the cardiovascular system vulnerable to decline. Like Hypertension, changes to lifestyle will help with menopause symptoms. Improving diet including fruit and vegetables, increasing fibre, drinking more water, etc., restricting alcohol intake, stopping smoking, lowering stress and increasing cardiovascular exercise, will all help with menopause symptoms and hypertension.
What is the role of HRT in managing blood pressure?
Alongside lifestyle changes, Hormone Replacement Therapy, (HRT) can help control menopause symptoms but also protect against developing long-term health conditions like heart disease but many individuals already taking anti-hypertensive medication, worry the HRT will interact with this medication or stop it working altogether. In a small study in 2005 monitoring individuals taking antihypertensives and HRT showed there was no issue between HRT and anti-hypertensives but advised close monitoring of both.
Both Menopause and high blood pressure can have serious ramifications for cardiac health but careful management, lifestyle changes and medication can help control both and improve quality of life for the individual.
If you have access to myTamarin virtual support with your employer and would like to discuss any concerns around Menopause book a 1-1 appointment with a specialist at myTamarin via your company-specific landing page or app.
NHS, (2023) High Blood Pressure, (Hypertension) www.nhs.uk
British Heart Foundation, (2023) High Blood Pressure, (Hypertension) www.bhf.org.uk
Blood Pressure UK, (2021) Blood Pressure, the Menopause and HRT. www.bloodpressureuk.org
Gaining a better understanding of menopause symptoms not only helps the women know what to expect so they can better prepare, both mentally and physically. An employer who has a better understanding of the signs of menopause will know when an employee is requiring menopausal support!Read post