After menopause, a woman’s body loses the protective effect of estrogen and progesterone against age-related diseases like Alzheimer, stroke and heart attack.
Common cardiovascular disease include a narrowing and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), chest pain that happens when not enough blood is getting to the heart (angina), heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure is also a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Many women think, wrongly, that only men need to worry about cardiovascular diseases but these affect women as well, especially post menopause, when the protective effect of estrogen fades. During menopausal years, a woman’s risk for developing these diseases increases and approaches levels found in men.
Recent studies found out that there is also a connection between frequency of daily hot flashes and coronary heart disease.
- high blood pressure
- high LDL (low density lipoproteins) or “bad” cholesterol
- low HDL (high density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol
- sedentary lifestyle
- family history of “heart disease” (Source: WebMD)
Fortunately, there are things you can do to decrease risk factors.
Can Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) reduce the risk of heart disease?
Previous medical research documented that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) protected the heart and blood vessels, decreased the risk of heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease by increasing HDL – “good” cholesterol – and by decreasing the LDL -“bad” cholesterol.”
More recently, studies have contradicted this research (WebMD).
A decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase in post-menopausal women. Estrogen is thought to have protective properties of the inner layer of the artery walls, keeping the blood vessels flexible.
The American Heart Association recommends against using postmenopausal HRT to reduce coronary heart disease or stroke risks due to contradictory reporting on its effectiveness.
Fact is, that the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in postmenopausal women has many other reasons. Blood pressure starts increasing, LDL (the bad cholesterol) tends to increase while HDL, the good cholesterol decreases, women experience weight gain, the level of exercise decreases, there is not enough good quality sleep.
Exercise is Key
Your heart is a muscle that requires regular exercise to keep it strong and healthy.
Exercise also assists in weight control, which can be a challenge in menopause. The best form of exercise is aerobic, which increases heart and respiratory rates.
Forms include brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling. Anaerobic exercises like free weight training and weight machines increase metabolic rates and muscle mass – muscle burns fat cells.
Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day and twice per week for anaerobic.
Always consult with a doctor before starting any new regimen.
A healthy diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and lean meats. These provide a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins necessary for cellular function. They also are sources of antioxidants which can reduce the risk of cell death and cancer by preventing DNA damage by oxygen free radicals
Avoid highly processed foods and those containing fats, particularly trans and saturated fats which increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol implicated in increased risks of developing heart disease and causing stroke.
Studies document that smokers experience double the rate of heart attacks compared to non-smokers. Also avoid second hand smoke which increases the risk of heart related disease.
Know your numbers.
Get blood pressure and cholesterol checked and assess risk factors with your doctor. The American Heart Association recommends getting your cholesterol, your blood pressure, your blood glucose levels and waist circumference checked regularly.
WHITTLE YOUR MIDDLE
Are you shaped more like an apple than a pear? You are at higher risk of heart disease. The risk rises when waist size goes over 35 inches for women. The best way to reduce your waist circumference is by losing weight and exercising but studies showed that dietary supplements with coconut oil may also help shrink belly fat.
GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D
A growing number of studies point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for heart attacks, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, strokes, as well as the conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life, but heart disease doesn’t have to be a side affect
LAURA PEISCHL, BA, INHC
Laura is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Holistic Menopause Health Specialist and Certified Hormone Health and Wellness Practitioner. She is the founder and owner of Feel Good Menopause™️