High Blood Pressure and Menopause - Get the Facts | Stella
Heart health
10 mins

High blood pressure in menopause

byDr. Lucy Wilkinson

Life is busy and like most people, you probably only see your doctor when something goes wrong. But some conditions have no symptoms. One example is high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. If left untreated, this can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease among other things.

Read our expert guide to find out how menopause affects blood pressure and some simple tips to help control it.

What is blood pressure and why is it important?

Hormonal changes can affect your blood pressure during menopause, so it’s important to get yours checked regularly. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about your blood pressure or cardiovascular health 

When your doctor takes your blood pressure, they are measuring how well your blood is moving around your body in your blood vessels. 

It may help to think about your blood vessels as similar to the pipes in your central heating at home. Your central heating system is filled with fluid that’s driven by a pump. A certain level of water pressure is needed to make the system work properly. Your radiators won’t get hot if the pressure is too low. You may get a burst pipe or a leak if the pressure is too high.

Your blood pressure works in a similar way. If your blood pressure is too low, you can end up fainting or feeling dizzy. If it’s too high, you are at risk of kidney disease, heart attacks, aneurysms, stroke or issues with your eyesight. This may sound worrying – this article will explain how to lower your risks.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure can be measured quickly and easily using a blood pressure monitor. This can be done in your doctor’s surgery, at the pharmacy or even at home if you have your own blood pressure monitor. 

The cuff goes around your arm – it will tighten and then release a few seconds later. A screen displays your blood pressure reading. Doctors and nurses may also check your blood pressure the old-fashioned way using a stethoscope. Both methods are fine.

The result will be shown as two numbers written as a fraction, such as 110/70. The upper number is your systolic pressure and refers to the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is pushing blood around your body. The lower number is your diastolic pressure, taken when your heart rests between beats.

What is a normal blood pressure?

A normal blood pressure is around 120/80, but this will vary from person to person. How you measure your blood pressure can affect your reading – it’s often higher if measured by your doctor compared to if you do it yourself at home. This can be because you may feel more stressed or anxious when in the doctor’s surgery.

Your blood pressure varies throughout your life. It’s common to have relatively low blood pressure as a young adult and during pregnancy. Your blood vessels become less elastic as you age, which may raise your blood pressure. 

A very high blood pressure can be a medical emergency and should not be ignored. 

When should you talk to a doctor about your blood pressure

Talk to your doctor if your blood pressure reading at home is:

  • 135/85 or above
  • 90/60 or lower and making you feel faint or dizzy

Ask for a same-day appointment if it’s 180/120 or above. 

Go to A&E or call 999 if you have a blood pressure of 180/120 or higher with:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Breathlessness
  • Swollen ankles
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Any other serious concerns

These can be signs of what we call a ‘hypertensive emergency’, which means you need assessment and treatment as soon as possible. Do not drive if your blood pressure is this high.

How often should you check your blood pressure?

Check your blood pressure at least once every five years after the age of 40. Check it every year if you are at high risk of developing high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. 

You will need regular checks if you have high blood pressure, and your doctor will advise on the frequency. It’s common to take extra readings when you start blood pressure tablets. Get advice from your doctor if you’re unsure. 

How can you check your blood pressure?

  • Ask at your doctor’s surgery. Some surgeries have a blood pressure machine in the waiting area that you can use without an appointment
  • At your local pharmacy. Selected Boots stores offer a free NHS blood pressure check for anyone over 40 and for those under 40 with a family history of high blood pressure. Book an in-person appointment online
  • Buy your own blood pressure monitor to use at home

Can menopause cause high blood pressure?

Scientists are still learning about the link between menopause and high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is more common after menopause and studies show an increased risk for those who go through menopause before age 45 or after age 50

However, it isn’t clear whether this is directly caused by menopause. Researchers think it could be caused by the way menopause affects your risk factors for high blood pressure. For example, we know that weight changes increase your risk of high blood pressure and are also common at menopause. 

The way menopause affects blood pressure is different for everyone. One study found that a third of women had a faster than usual increase in blood pressure in the year after menopause – but this didn’t happen for everyone.

It’s impossible to predict how your blood pressure will respond to hormonal changes. This is why it is important to check yours regularly and see your doctor if you notice the numbers are too low or too high.

Can low oestrogen cause high blood pressure?

Oestrogen levels gradually decrease throughout perimenopause until reaching a low level during postmenopause.

While we know that high blood pressure is more common when oestrogen levels are low – that is, after menopause – we don’t yet fully understand whether low oestrogen levels are directly responsible.

Four ways to control high blood pressure during menopause

Treatment for high blood pressure is similar regardless of your age or menopause stage.

Your lifestyle choices are important and making small changes might improve your blood pressure, such as:

  1. Exercising more regularly
  2. Drinking less alcohol if you have more than 14 units per week
  3. Cutting down on the amount of salt in your diet – keep to less than 6g or one teaspoon per day
  4. Losing weight if your BMI is above 25

Your doctor may also recommend medications, known as antihypertensives, to reduce your blood pressure if lifestyle changes don’t work for you or you need more urgent help. 

Can HRT help with high blood pressure in menopause?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not used to treat high blood pressure, even though there may be a link between menopause and high blood pressure. But HRT is a highly effective treatment for many menopause symptoms, although it’s not for everyone. Find out more about the risks and benefits here

Will your high blood pressure decrease after menopause?

A gradual increase in blood pressure is a natural part of ageing. If you have high blood pressure during menopause it’s unlikely to decrease on its own afterwards.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to get yours back into the healthy range. Work with your doctor to try lifestyle changes and medications, and find what works for you. 

Final word

High blood pressure is common, especially after menopause. Check it regularly and speak to your doctor about any high readings. This simple step can reduce your risk of serious illness and help you live a longer, healthier life. 

Find out more about menopause on our blog or in our symptoms library