Severe cramps and dizziness each month may wreak havoc with your blood pressure
The few days each month you spend with your heating pad pressed against your stomach are bad enough. But now a new study has found that women with severe PMS symptoms are also at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and, eventually, heart disease.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1,257 women with moderate to severe PMS and about 2,500 women who had relatively mild periods. Participants were part of a larger study, which began in 1989, and had follow-ups every two years.
The researchers found women who had more severe PMS symptoms (cramps, dizziness, insomnia, hot flashes) were 40 percent more likely to develop hypertension than those with mild symptoms. The association was even stronger for women between 27 and 40 years of age: In this age group (compared to those in the study who were older than 40), women with PMS had three times the risk women without PMS had for developing hypertension in the next 20 years. It is important to note that the youngest study participants were 27, so it’s unclear how these results would apply to younger women.
But the authors don’t say PMS causes high blood pressure. They believe the two conditions may stem from the same underlying cause, such as differences in women’s vascular systems. The link may also be due to the fact that certain medications, including birth control pills and antidepressants some women with PMS take are also known to increase blood pressure.
Before you panic, know that the risk for high blood pressure for women in this age group isn’t sky high to begin with. Women between 20 and 34 have roughly a 7 percent risk, while those between 35 and 44 have a 19 percent risk. And other lifestyle factors, like weight and whether or not they smoke, also could affect risk. But the risk does increase as women age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at age 65, the risk for women of developing high blood pressure is 69.3 percent; it’s 64 percent for men the same age. We should also point out that black folks have the dubious distinction of having the highest rates of high blood pressure in the world, though this study didn’t factor race into its results.
The good news: Strategies to prevent or treat PMS—regular exercise, a balanced diet and relaxation—can also help lower blood pressure.