Heart disease is something that all of us face. As we age, our risk naturally increases. However, symptoms are becoming more apparent in postmenopausal women. To be clear, menopause does not cause cardiovascular diseases. Yet, a combination of lifestyle choices, family history, and unhealthy habits paired with menopause can cause certain risk factors to increase.
Silent Killer: Menopause and Heart Disease
“Menopause isn’t a disease. It’s a natural phase of a woman’s life cycle,” Dr. Nieca Goldberg (a cardiologist and an American Heart Association volunteer) said. “It’s important for women, as they approach menopause, to really take stock of their health.”
Data shows that more than 1 in 3 female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. And research shows that there is an overall increase in heart failure among women roughly ten years after menopause. The average age for the onset of menopause, or the time when menstrual cycles permanently stop, is around 54. And in women over 50, nearly 50% of deaths are due to some form of cardiovascular disease.
Lowering Estrogen Levels and Other Changes
After menopause, estrogen levels begin to decline. Through research, medical professionals believe that estrogen has a positive effect on the inner layer of the artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible. That means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow.
Other changes also occur within the body post-menopause. Blood pressure and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) tend to increase. Triglycerides, or kinds of fats in the blood, also tend to increase. Unfortunately, HDL (“good” cholesterol) tends to either decline or stay the same.
“We aren’t sure why this (correlation between menopause and cardiovascular disease) is, but it is thought to be related to a decrease in estrogen. We are still looking into the causes,” says Dr. Deborah Rohm Young, vice chair of the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Subcommittee. “Still, this is nothing to be freaked out over. There are many ways you can stay heart healthy after menopause.”
Hormone Replacement Therapy…?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) poses no heart-related dangers. And depending on age may show some possible benefits. For those starting HRT in the ten-year window from the onset of their menopause, the risk of heart attack does not increase. The same holds true for those participating in the therapy between the ages of 50-59.
Younger women shouldn’t fret though. As they also show no risk and may even find their risks lowered while participating in HRT. However, women over the age of 60 or became menopausal more than ten years ago could have a slightly increased risk.
How to Achieve Heart Health
If you’ve been trying to follow a healthy lifestyle, and continue to do so after menopause, your risk for heart disease and stroke decreases. You should do your best to take care of your heart through regular exercising, practicing good nutrition, and eliminating unhealthy habits.
To get the nutrients you need, the American Heart Association recommends eating a dietary pattern that emphasizes:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Poultry, fish, and nuts
- While limiting red meat and sugary foods and beverages
Essentially, follow a diet based on whole food eating. Step away from more processed foods and open your kitchen to foods without an ingredients list. Remember, maintaining a healthy body weight starts in the kitchen. The heavier you are over your ideal body’s weight, the harder your heart has to work!
The heart is a muscle. And just like any other muscle, it needs to be worked to keep it strong and healthy. Ideally, women should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week to help prevent heart disease. Exercising regularly helps improve how the heart pumps blood through the body. It can also help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce stress, help reduce weight gain, and improves blood sugar levels.
And don’t feel like you have to become an Olympic runner or swimmer to see those benefits. Can you walk to get your coffee in the morning instead of driving? Blast your favorite music and dance around as you clean your house. Take your favorite furry pal for an unexpected walk. Your options are limitless!
Take Your Medicine and Get Screened
Do not get lazy with any medical conditions you currently suffer from. Especially make sure to stay on top of your diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. These are all known risk factors for heart disease.
It’s also important to get regular heart screenings to double-check your heart health. The American Heart Association recommends getting your cholesterol checked every five years. You should also get your blood pressure checked at least every two years. And your blood glucose levels checked every three years. Your weight, waist circumference, BMI, and other weight contributors should be checked during every regular healthcare visit.
It’s Going to be Okay
Going through menopause can feel like a huge life change for some women. And it can be easy to fall into depression-like tendencies. According to research from the American Heart Association, depression is linked to almost a doubled risk of stroke in middle-aged women. So, although it will be hard, do your best to let go of those negative thoughts and fears. And instead embrace life through eating right, exercising, and socializing with friends and loved ones.
Zock Chiropractic Would Love to Help!
If you have heart concerns, Dr. Zock and the staff at Zock Family Chiropractic would love to help. She can listen to your concerns, provide you with chiropractic insight, and help guide you to a trusted medical professional should you need one. Keep your heart healthy this month and every month. Make an appointment in Cranberry to schedule an introductory session and provide you with a happy and healthy 2019!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.