What High Blood Pressure Can Do to Your Body
Hypertension is very common at menopause, generally related to increased weight. It is not to be taken lightly.
High blood pressure affects more than 1 in 4 adults in England, of that figure 26% are women, with little change over the last few years. There are a number of ways to protect your heart including, diet, exercise and good progesterone levels.
Having persistent hypertension can have a number of health consequences, so check below as to what might be affecting you.
Your arteries should be sturdy, springy, and smooth to move blood easily from your lungs and heart, where it gets oxygen, to your organs and other tissues. High blood pressure, (hypertension), pushes too hard on your artery walls.
This damages the inside and causes fat, or “plaque,” to collect and that makes your arteries more stiff and narrow, so they can’t do their job as well.
This occurs when pressure pushes out a section of an artery wall and weakens it. If it breaks, it can bleed into your body, and that could be serious.
It’s possible in any artery, but an aneurysm is most common in your aorta, which runs down the middle of your body. If you have a damaged artery, you could get an aneurysm even if you don’t have high blood pressure.
Coronary artery disease
This happens when plaque builds up in arteries close to your heart. This slows blood flow, which can bring chest pain or a strange heart rhythm (called an arrhythmia).
A total blockage can cause a heart attack.
When enough plaque builds up, or a clump of it comes loose, to completely block an artery to your heart, it can cause a heart attack. This occurs in about one-third of women as the cause and the blockage starves the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients. That can hurt or destroy it.
You usually feel pressure or pain in your chest, but sometimes in your arm, neck, or jaw too. It might be hard to breathe, and you could be dizzy or nauseated.
Always call the emergency services if you are concerned about chest pains, do not hesitate.
Peripheral artery disease
This is similar to Coronary artery disease, but it affects blood vessels farther from your heart, like those in your arms, legs, head, or stomach. You might have pain or cramps in your legs, often when you walk or climb stairs. It can also make you tired.
The pain may go away when you rest and come back when you move. Left untreated, it could bring more serious problems like stroke, ulcers, and loss of circulation in your legs, which can cause amputation.
High blood pressure can cause your arteries to narrow. Over time, that can make your heart work harder and get weaker. Eventually, it gets so weak that it can’t supply enough blood to the rest of the body. This is heart failure.
As it works harder to move blood around, the muscle of your heart thickens. As a result, your whole heart gets larger.
The bigger it gets, the less able it is to do its job, which means your tissues might not get the oxygen and nutrients they need.
High blood pressure is the top cause of stroke. There are two types: Haemorrhagic where a weakened artery bursts in the brain and Ischemic where a clump, or “clot,” of plaque comes loose and blocks blood flow to brain cells.
Part of your brain starts to die when it doesn’t get enough blood. This can hurt your ability to think, move, speak, and see. For symptoms, remember FAST:
Time to call for medical help.
High blood pressure can cause plaque buildup in arteries that supply your brain. The clogging of those arteries can slow the flow of blood to the rest of your body. When it changes the way your brain works, it’s called “vascular dementia.”
It might affect how well you think, speak, see, remember — even the way you move. This usually happens slowly over time. But if you have a stroke, you could notice symptoms very quickly.
High blood pressure is the second-leading cause of kidney failure. It narrows and hardens the blood vessels your kidneys use to help get rid of waste and extra fluid.
That keeps special filters, called nephrons, from getting enough blood and nutrients and if that happen it can eventually shut down your kidneys for good.
Over time, high blood pressure can slow blood flow to the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eyeball. It can also slow the travel of blood to the optic nerve, which helps send signals to your brain. Either may blur your vision, or in some cases make it go away.
It might also cause fluid to build under your retina and that could scar the tissue and distort your vision.
High blood pressure can slow down blood flow anywhere in the body. In women it means your body may respond differently because of less blood flow to your vagina, both before and during sex. You might not be as aroused when you want to be, and it could be harder to climax. High blood pressure can also make you more tired. It can reduce your sex drive, too.
In men, if there is not enough blood to the penis, then there can be problems getting or keeping an erection. This may be a sign that you need to see a doctor to check for high blood pressure and rule out related health issues.
People with high blood pressure often have more calcium in their urine. It may be that it causes your body to get rid of too much of this important mineral needed for strong bones. Calcium of course is not the only factor, low progesterone levels and other essential ingredients are needed for bone building so if you have a family history of osteoporosis, or frequent breakage of bones, then this needs to be checked.
Not having good progesterone and other essential nutrients can lead to breaks or fractures, especially in older women.
It is estimated that as many as 26% of adults aged 30-70 years have obstructive sleep apnea. Men are twice as likely to have it as women, but they are diagnosed with sleep apnea almost 8 times more often.
This condition makes your throat muscles relax too much and stops your breathing briefly, but repeatedly, as you sleep. High blood pressure seems to cause sleep apnea, which in turn appears to raise blood pressure.
Work with your doctor to treat both conditions as soon as you can to help prevent other health problems.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure levels check what factors might be affecting that. At menopause unfortunately it is often a combination of increased weight, less exercise and oestrogen dominance.
Happily it is also something that responds well to self help measures, and regular checks with your doctor to monitor your levels, so these articles may help.