The link between PMS and hypertension is raising alarms

If you’re like me, your first reaction was to think, “PMS and high blood pressure? What’s the connection?” So far, at least two links have been established: the first, between the menstrual cycle and blood pressure fluctuations, and the second, between moderate to severe PMS symptoms and the risk of high blood pressure. So… Is there any way around it?

PMS

asktheexpert
Sonia Chartier
@AVogel_ca


16 March 2018

First, keep in mind that high blood pressure is sneaky, because until it reaches sky-high levels, you usually won’t even notice you have it. Yet behind the scenes, it’s increasing your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, dementia, kidney disease and vision disorders. Simply put, it’s something to avoid at all costs!

Unlike high blood pressure, PMS makes its presence known, so you’re probably all too familiar with it. Its monthly arrival takes the form of a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms including fatigue, acne, bloating, mood swings, anxiety, lack of concentration and an unhealthy appetite for junk food. Sound familiar? Well, that’s not surprising given that over 75% of women are affected by PMS to some degree, and they don’t want to have anything to do with that either!

Link between blood pressure and the menstrual cycle

The notion that there could be a link between blood pressure and the menstrual cycle is not a new one. In 1991, a study of women with a normal menstrual cycle examined fluctuations in blood pressure over the course of the hormonal cycle.  According to the study, blood pressure peaks when menstrual bleeding starts and bottoms out between the 17th and 26th days of the cycle. The study also found that blood pressure varies in a similar manner in all women depending on the phases of the cycle (follicular and luteal), regardless of whether their pressure is normal or slightly above normal to start with. The study clearly illustrated the link between hormonal variations and blood pressure.

More recently, another study established a link between the risk of high blood pressure and moderate to severe PMS, which affects between 8% and 15% of women.  The study showed that women affected by PMS run a 40% greater risk of suffering from hypertension than women with few or no PMS symptoms. Before publishing their findings, the researchers made sure to take into account other common hypertension risk factors, such as obesity, smoking and drinking, a sedentary lifestyle, the use of birth control pills or hormone therapy, not to mention a genetic predisposition.

This 20-year study found the link to be especially strong in women under 40. In this age group, the odds of developing high blood pressure are three times as high. However, given that no cause-and-effect explanation has been established, the current recommendation is simply to have your blood pressure checked if you suffer from serious PMS symptoms.

This study did yield one piece of good news. It turns out that women are not completely at hypertension’s mercy: those with a significant intake of B complex vitamins did not experience an increased risk of high blood pressure. These water-soluble vitamins are not stored by the body, so it’s important to get them regularly through your food or a supplement. They are found in brewer’s yeast, egg yolk, organ meats, fatty fishes, whole grains and wheat germ. Bio-Strath, a supplement made with fermented yeast, contains all the B complex vitamins and other nutrients that promote energy and help your body overcome stress. Its positive effect on iron levels is particularly important for women, whose need for this mineral is much higher than it is for men.

Diet and Hypertension

In this blog, we’ve already established the link between diet, lifestyle and PMS. It is interesting to note that diet and lifestyle also constitute major risk factors for hypertension, with a number of similarities. For example:

  • Salt causes the body to retain water, and too much water in the body not only increases blood pressure but contributes to bloating during PMS. The World Health Organization recommends a daily salt intake of less than 2,000 mg.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water a day to reduce bloating.
  • Consume less coffee, alcohol and sugar. You’ve probably heard that having one glass of wine a day lowers your risk of a heart attack. For once, the rumours are true. But you need to keep it to a single glass, not more!
  • Eat more complex carbohydrates: whole-grain breads and pasta, pulses, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
  • Thirty minutes of exercise on at least five days a week, and it has to be cardio exercises, the kind that get your heart pumping.
  • Manage your stress: Take up yoga or tai chi and make sure you get enough magnesium. You can also take a flowering oat supplement, which acts as a nerve tonic. Bio-Strath is also a good choice in this case.
  • Sufficient sleep: You need six to eight hours of sleep per night. Not too much, not too little.

Of course, I had to wonder whether there is a real link between PMS and blood pressure, or whether it’s simply that a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle contribute to PMS and end up causing hypertension. In other words, perhaps the immediate effect is PMS, but in the long term, high blood pressure develops, embodying the cumulative result of the choices you’ve made over the years...

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