If you have been experiencing hot flashes and you’ve also been told by your doctor that your blood pressure is running high, you may wonder if there is a connection between the two.
Research into this topic tells an interesting story.
One study that looked into the possible connection between hot flashes and hypertension found that women who experienced frequent hot flashes also had a systolic blood pressure that was significantly higher than average. The association was so strong that researchers could use the women’s hot flashes to predict increases in their systolic numbers. Systolic refers to the “top” number of your blood pressure reading. It measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts.
Another study used hormone-inhibiting blood pressure drugs to reduce hot flashes in women with breast cancer. The frequency of the participants’ hot flashes dropped dramatically — by about 40-80 percent. Researchers noted that participants worried about potential side effects of taking a blood pressure drug for hot flashes.
Is it really all about stress?
So, do these studies mean hot flashes cause higher systolic blood pressure?
Lots of things can lead to higher systolic blood pressure, but one good theory holds that like hot flashes, raised systolic blood pressure starts when there’s an increase in central sympathetic nerve activity. This could make sense because that’s the part of your nervous system that activates your fight-or-flight response when you’re under stress. So, what could be going on is that perimenopausal and menopausal women who are under chronic stress (and that’s most of them!) are seeing natural side effects of this stress in the form of hot flashes and high blood pressure — both issues share this common root.
Here’s something else to consider: hot flashes can cause unpleasant facial flushing, and guess what? So can high blood pressure. But facial flushing can be caused by a lot of other things that DO for sure raise blood pressure, including high temperatures, hot water, alcohol, exercise, and again, stress. The theory here is that women may think their hot flashes are linked to high blood pressure, but in fact the rise in blood pressure is caused by something else that is happening at the same time as the hot flash.
Hot flashes can be awful but they don’t raise your risk for disease. However, since blood pressure does increase after menopause, it’s a different story. When your blood pressure goes up, so does your risk for cardiovascular problems. You can help stave off high blood pressure and support a healthy heart by eating right, drinking less alcohol, cutting back on salt and getting regular aerobic exercise.
In the end, the hot flash mechanism is still a bit of a mystery. Your best bet for finding hot flash relief is to take steps to balance your hormones and avoid your personal hot flash triggers. You can take steps to lower your blood pressure too!