Menopause and high blood pressure go hand in hand. Unlike men, most women enjoy healthy blood pressure throughout middle age. But that changes with menopause.
You see, younger women have a secret weapon against high blood pressure. It’s the hormone estrogen. It works in many ways to naturally regulate blood pressure.
But at perimenopause estrogen levels start to drop. Nitric oxide goes down. Endothelin goes up. Blood vessel walls start to stiffen.
The end result is that as people reach their 60s, more women than men have high blood pressure because of the link between menopause and high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is potentially deadly. Menopause and high blood pressure can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It can triple your risk of heart attack. It can spike your risk of stroke seven-fold. And it’s the most common cause of kidney failure.
Bottom line? Menopause and high blood pressure can shorten your life by 10 to 20 years.
Most people don't know about the link between menopause and high blood pressure. They believe sodium in salt raises blood pressure. But studies show cutting down on salt reduced blood pressure only slightly for people with hypertension.
And a study in The Lancet found that people on so-called “healthy” low-salt diets were MORE likely to have heart attacks and strokes, and die than those who had moderate amounts of sodium in their diets.
That’s because when it comes to blood pressure, sodium is only half of the equation. The other half is potassium.
Researchers in the Netherlands looked at potassium consumption in 21 countries. They concluded that increasing potassium in your diet could contribute significantly to improving blood pressure.
In fact, adding potassium to your diet might get you the same results as cutting your table salt in half.
The balance between sodium and potassium is so critical it’s been called the “vitality ratio.”
Here’s why. Potassium and sodium work together to maintain your body’s optimal fluid levels. When your sodium levels drift up, your body retains fluid putting pressure on your blood vessels. Potassium helps excrete the excess sodium in your urine.
Potassium also relaxes blood vessel walls helping to relieve blood pressure.
But most of us don’t get enough potassium. The Netherlands study found that average potassium intake varies between 1.7 and 3.7 grams a day. That’s much less than the 4.7 grams you should be getting.
The researchers found that increasing potassium to 4.7 grams per day would have the same effect on blood pressure as decreasing dietary salt by 4 grams. That’s huge.
Fresh fruits are great sources of potassium. And they help with menopause and high blood pressure. The highest levels are found in melons (cantaloupe, casaba and honeydew) which have almost 500 mg in a cup. Other excellent sources include figs, apricots, sun-dried tomatoes, bananas, nectarines, oranges, prunes and papayas.
When it comes to vegetables, the best sources are dark leafy greens like beet greens, spinach, and Swiss chard, as well as beets, avocados, artichokes. Other good sources include beans, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes (skin on), squash, tomatoes and yams.
In addition to adding potassium-rich foods to your diet, try these six superfoods to get your blood pressure under control:
Wageningen University and Research Centre (2010, September 13). Consumption of 'good salt' can reduce population blood pressure levels, research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/09/100913161826.htm
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Yusuf S, Teo K, and Mente A, et al. “Associations of urinary sodium excretion with cardiovascular events in individuals with and without hypertension: a pooled analysis of data from four studies.” The Lancet. 2016. Volume 388, Issue 10043, 465 – 475.
Linda A. J. van Mierlo; Arno Greyling; Peter L. Zock; Frans J. Kok; Johanna M. Geleijnse. “Suboptimal Potassium Intake and Potential Impact on Population Blood Pressure.” Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010; 170 (16): 1501-1502.
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Rizwan Ashraf, Rafeeq Alam Khan, Imran Ashraf, et al. “Effects of Allium sativum (Garlic) on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension.” Pak J Pharm Sci. 2013;26(5):859-63.