Self Care, High Blood Pressure, and Ensuring Your Heart Health During Menopause


Susan Clinton PT, DScPT, OCS, WCS, FAAOMPT, NBHWC

Women often take on the role of caretaker. We take care of our children, our families, our homes, our jobs – one thing we often don’t take care of, though, is ourselves.

In a 2000 national self-nurture survey conducted by The Thymes Limited, only one-third of the women surveyed reported that they took time for self-care. And the time spent on that self-care- 30 mins or less! 76% of the women surveyed stated they spend up to 10 hours a day caring for partners/children, and 19% spent time caring for others.

With cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among older women, we need to prioritize our wellbeing to ensure that we will be around to continue to take care of the people we love.

There is no greater time to start prioritizing yourself and becoming aware of your self-care habits than during pregnancy and the years after. Studies have shown that 10% of all pregnant women experience high blood pressure during pregnancy. But what lasting effects does this have in the postpartum years, and how can self-care help minimize these effects?

Why do women get high blood pressure during pregnancy?

High blood pressure during pregnancy, also known as hypertensive disorders in pregnancy (HDP), includes gestational hypertension and, more severely, preeclampsia. Doctors aren’t sure what causes women to experience these symptoms during pregnancy. However, several risk factors that can contribute to its onset are:

  • Previous pregnancy with high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Being under the age of 20 or over the age of 40
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • Obesity
  • Being an African American
  • Pregnancy resulting from IVF

The good news is that high blood pressure associated with pregnancy often resolves with the baby’s birth. On the downside, studies have indicated that women who experience difficulties with their blood pressure during pregnancy are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease 1 year postpartum than other postpartum women of similar age.

What do these risk factors mean for the post-menopausal woman?

Heart health is crucial for women in their menopausal years. Without any other risk factors, menopausal women are at high risk for heart disease due to hormonal changes.

This risk doubles when combined with a history of high blood pressure during pregnancy. The severity of the high blood pressure increases this risk further.

While doctors aren’t sure exactly what this correlation is, one thing is certain, the appearance of high blood pressure during pregnancy could be an early warning sign of cardiovascular issues later on in life. It is important to closely monitor your blood pressure and overall health in the years after pregnancy. Self-monitoring can help identify any persisting or new symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease.

Prevention and early detection are vital in heart disease.

If you’ve suffered from elevated blood pressure during pregnancy, it is essential to make your doctor aware of your history. With this knowledge, your doctor can monitor your health more closely and may recognize cardiovascular disease symptoms earlier on if they develop. 

  • Getting daily physical exercise
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Take time for yourself

If you want to learn more about how you can keep yourself healthy during menopause and reduce your risk for heart disease, check out my article, Keeping Your Heart, Body, and Mind Strong During Menopause.

Menopause is a time for resilience.

With all of the changes that a woman’s body goes through- puberty, pregnancy, and menopause- our bodies and mind learn to be resilient. We must continuously adapt and change to suit our situation.

Traversing these many changes can help shine a light on our lifestyle choices. Knowing and understanding your risk factors for heart disease early on can put you on a path to a healthier heart as you age.

While it is noble and wonderful to be the caregiver to others, please don’t forget about taking care of yourself. Prioritizing your health and surrounding yourself with love, hugs, passion, and fun is just as important as making the changes to your diet and exercising.

Are you ready to prioritize yourself and start your journey to a more balanced life?

At Embody Physiotherapy and Wellness, we are committed to helping you maintain your health no matter the stage of your life. We offer personalized health and Wellness coaching and Physioyoga classes to help you make actionable, sustainable changes to make your visions for your health a reality. Contact us today to book your free consultation 🙂

Susan is a certified health and wellness coach, an award-winning physical therapist in professional achievement, and co-owner of Embody Physiotherapy and Wellness in Sewickley, PA. She is an international instructor of post-professional education in women’s health (including GI issues in women), orthopedic manual therapy, and business psychology. Susan is the co-founder and board member for the foundation: Global Women’s Health Initiative. She is also the co-host of the 5 five-star podcast, “Tough to Treat,” the guide to treating complex patients, and “The Genius Project,” reframing the treatment of persistent musculoskeletal pain.