According to the American Heart Association, more than one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. And many women may have an increased risk for heart disease during menopause. But what is the connection between heart problems and the onset of menopause? It is important for women to understand this to know if they are at risk of developing a problem with their heart as menopause comes along.
How are Menopause and Heart Disease Linked?
Menopause does not cause heart disease. But there are links between menopause and heart disease in that certain risk factors for cardiovascular issues increase during the menopausal and postmenopausal years.
A decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase among post-menopausal women. Estrogen is believed to positively affect the inner layer of the artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible. That means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow.
Assorted changes in the body occur with menopause. Your blood pressure starts to go up. LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, tends to increase while HDL, or “good” cholesterol, declines or remains the same. Triglycerides, certain types of fats in the blood, also increase.
Tips for Heart Disease Prevention During Menopause
While menopause and heart disease may be linked due to hormonal issues out of your control, there are some things you can do to decrease your risk of heart disease. You can talk to your healthcare providers about whether or not you might benefit from treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or other medication.
HRT can help you manage the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause by replacing hormones like estrogen. But if you are looking at HRT as a possible way to prevent heart disease during menopause, it’s crucial to discuss it with your doctors because it’s not right for everyone.
Some changes that everyone can make to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease involve changes to diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.
- Diet: Eating a heart-healthy diet can help you protect your heart during menopause. Your diet should not contain much red meat or sugary foods and drinks. Fill your plate with these foods instead:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
- Lean protein from poultry, fish, nuts, and other plant sources
- Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends women get at least 15o minutes of physical activity each week to help prevent heart disease. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should aim for more than 300 minutes a week.
- Lifestyle Choices: Eliminate unhealthy habits that may increase your risk of heart disease. Namely, if you’re a smoker, you need to get help so you can quit. There are resources you can use to help you quit and improve your health in many ways.
Talk to a Menopause Specialist
Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is a certified menopause practitioner experienced in helping patients manage the symptoms of menopause. If you are worried about menopause and heart disease, Dr. Clark can help you devise a plan to help manage both your menopausal symptoms and your risks of complications like heart disease. To schedule an appointment, call (919) 960-2720.