Health-care pros tell us their patients' most-asked questions. Here's what they have to say about high blood pressure, vertigo and blood clots.
Q: Postmenopause, is high blood pressure inevitable?
Dr. Paula Harvey, physician-in-chief and director of cardiovascular research at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says:
As women transition through menopause to postmenopause, their blood pressure may start to increase, showing a steeper incline than in their male counterparts. This is likely due to a number of factors, including hormonal changes—specifically a loss of estrogen. A healthy diet and an active lifestyle can be protective against high blood pressure and, in my opinion, are equivalent to medication, since they can prevent a progressive elevation of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. I recommend the DASH [Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension] or Mediterranean diet, both of which emphasize fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish and healthy fats like olive oil and small amounts of lean meat; in addition, minimize alcohol, salt and sugar consumption. Exercise is one of the most important factors in reducing risk, so get active through a combination of aerobic exercise—walking or cycling, for instance—and light resistance exercises.
Q: I've been suffering from vertigo. What causes it and how can I manage my symptoms?
Lauren Scott, nurse practitioner, family practice health centre at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says:
Vertigo is a type of dizziness that makes you feel like you're spinning or that the environment around you is moving, spinning or tilting. The sensation comes and goes, lasting from a few seconds to hours or days, and usually gets worse when you move your head. Commonly, vertigo is an inner-ear issue, which affects your centre of balance; it may also be a symptom of a head injury, a side-effect of a medication or, less likely, an early sign of something more serious, like multiple sclerosis or stroke. While vertigo may go away on its own, symptoms can be treated with prescription medications or rebalancing exercises, like the Epley manoeuvre. If you experience recurring dizziness, get a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist. If the dizzy sensation is accompanied by neck pain, a fall, loss of consciousness or other neurological symptoms, such as seizure, vision problems, muscle weakness or trouble speaking, it may be a sign of multiple sclerosis or stroke.
Q: What causes deep vein thrombosis? I have a surgery coming up and am concerned.
Dr. Savannah Cardew, staff internist at the Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says:
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that typically forms in veins in the leg. Many DVTs are unexplained, but various conditions or situations can put people at risk, including a recent surgery, an extended hospital stay or cancer. Patients admitted to hospital or people having surgery are typically given medication to prevent blood clots. Some medications may also increase the risk, such as hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives. Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms in the leg: a persistent unilateral ache or pain, swelling or discoloration. A DVT in the leg can travel to the blood vessels in the lungs—known as a pulmonary embolism—and can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and, in extreme cases, cardiac arrest.