Uterine Fibroids are a very complex and difficult condition, and their diagnosis often requires a number of tests and clinical exams. However, despite the lack of information available online about the exact cause of this condition, scientists and doctors have stated that uterine fibroids are very common. In fact, according to recent data, more than 70% of women may have uterine fibroids.
While some women may have no symptoms and others may experience many symptoms, it’s important to know that fibroids are noncancerous and, with proper treatment and lifestyle changes, most women can live full, vibrant lives even when fibroids are present.
In this short article, we’ll review three important topics that many women don’t think about when it comes to their uterine fibroids:
- Blood pressure
Knowing about these issues and how they relate to uterine fibroids will ensure you know what to look for, how to take care of yourself and, ultimately, how to live and feel better regardless of how many fibroids you have.
Secrets to a healthier life with uterine fibroids
Living a healthy, happy life with uterine fibroids is not impossible. In fact, there are many different methods and lifestyle changes that may help you reduce the pain, everyday discomfort, and even long-term health concerns that many women must face. Although these approaches are not substitutes for surgical procedures or medication, they may help you feel better –– and isn’t that the main goal?
Blood pressure: how it’s related to uterine fibroids and how to manage it
While most women aren’t aware of it, according to scientists, women with high blood pressure are at greater risk of developing uterine fibroids. Additionally, more women with uterine fibroids (40%) have high blood pressure compared to women without fibroids (28%).
The science is clear: there is a definite link between uterine fibroids and high blood pressure.
So what should you do about it?
First, make sure you’re getting your blood pressure checked regularly, so you know if you’re in the normal range or not. Even though you may not “feel” your high blood pressure and your uterine fibroid symptoms may not be affected, keeping your blood pressure within the normal range is important for long-term health. If your blood pressure goes uncontrolled, it could lead to other dangerous conditions.
If you do have high blood pressure, here are a few tips to help you manage it:
- Regularly monitor your blood pressure
- Maintain a healthy weight and lose weight if you are overweight
- Eat a well-balanced diet that limits highly processed foods
- Limit your salt intake
- Get 150 minutes of physical activity per week
- Limit alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Have regular checkups with your primary-care physician (or gynecologist)
Anemia: why it happens and how to manage it
It is estimated that about 20-50% of women with uterine fibroids will experience symptoms, with one of the most common symptoms being heavy menstrual bleeding, which is also known as menorrhagia. Some studies show that nearly half of women with uterine fibroids report heavy bleeding.
This could include one or more of the following:
- Heavy bleeding flow before and after your menstrual cycle
- Irregular cycles
- Spotting between periods
- Formation of blood clots within menstrual blood
While the exact cause of this irregular or heavy bleeding is unknown, most scientists agree that it could be due to increased blood flow to the uterus, which is also one factor that causes the continued growth of uterine fibroids.
If you’re someone who has heavy periods, you know it’s annoying (at best). But if left untreated, heavy bleeding could lead to a condition called anemia, which can be diagnosed via a simple blood test.
The uterine lining is rich in iron and every time you have your period, your body loses iron. Iron is a nutrient that is important in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Anemia occurs when your body doesn’t have enough of certain blood cells or when blood cells aren’t functioning properly.
You may have anemia if you experience any of the following:
- Excessive fatigue or tiredness
In serious cases, anemia can also cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
**NOTE: These symptoms might also have other causes, so it’s recommended that you seek medical attention if you experience them.**
If your uterine fibroids are causing heavy menstrual bleeding, it’s important that you take necessary steps to ensure you don’t become anemic or get treatment if you do.
Consider making the following changes:
- Eat plenty of iron-rich foods, such as tofu, green and leafy vegetables, lean red meat, lentils, beans and iron-fortified cereals and breads
- Eat and drink foods and beverages that are rich in vitamin C
- Avoid drinking tea or coffee with your meals, as they can decrease iron absorption
- Get enough vitamin B12 and folic acid in your diet
Stress: The relationship between stress, symptoms, and fibroid growth
Another important factor that doctors have linked to uterine fibroids is a high level of stress. Even though more research on the topic needs to be done, most scientists agree that higher stress levels may provoke more abdominal pain in women with uterine fibroids and that major stress itself can increase the growth rate of fibroids.
First, let’s talk about fibroid growth and formation. Generally, researchers believe that fibroids form as a result of hormones. In fact, uterine fibroids contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than typical uterine muscle cells do, so it is thought that both hormones promote the growth of these benign tumors. Scientists have hypothesized that stress can lead to fibroids and fibroid growth as a result of fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels caused by stress activation in the brain, and the subsequent release of cortisol, a stress hormone.
In terms of increased pain, stress is known to lower the pain threshold, which increases muscle tension and discomfort. It can also worsen PMS-related irritability and mood swings, which often coexist with fibroids.
While there are many ways to reduce stress, there are two main things doctors often recommend, which are specific to women with uterine fibroids:
- 20 minutes of physical activity per day –– In particular, relaxing activities such as yoga, tai chi or light walking have shown to improve the symptoms of uterine fibroids.
- Surround yourself with support –– Many studies have shown that support groups and strong friendships help reduce stress by increasing feelings of warmth, security, and connection. Remember, more than 70% of women likely have uterine fibroids, just like you. You are not alone. We invite you to join our community on FB or IG, or create your own local group, in-person or online.
Uterine Fibroids can be a challenging condition, because of uncomfortable symptoms and the lack of scientific evidence for long-term treatments and cures. Despite the need for more research, doctors have agreed that a number of lifestyle changes can help women lead healthier lives. Keeping a close eye on blood pressure, adopting an iron-rich diet, and leading an active lifestyle are all great ways to have a better quality of life, even when living with fibroids.