Her Mature Heart: Menopause and heart health
5/5/2015 12:20 PM
The risk for heart disease rises as our bodies and hearts age. For women, symptoms might become more evident once menopause begins.
“When it comes to cardiovascular disease, men are at a higher risk than women because women are protected by their hormones,” said Dr. Anthony Cedrone, CTMC’s interventional cardiologist. “However, once a woman hits menopause that protection goes away, and her risk of suffering a heart attack is equal to that of a man.” said Dr. Cedrone.
As women approach menopause, it’s important to take stock of their health. On average, the onset of menopause, when menstrual periods permanently stop, occurs at age 54. An increase in heart attacks among women is seen about 10 years after menopause, and heart disease is the leading killer of women.
Estrogen is believed to have 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. Estrogen decreases during menopause.
Despite the benefits of estrogen, the American Heart Association does not recommend using postmenopausal hormone therapy to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke because some studies have shown
it appears to be ineffective.
Other changes during menopause include rising blood pressure, increased LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and reduced HDL (“good” cholesterol).
When you follow a healthy lifestyle at menopause, your risk for heart disease and stroke is lower. Women should take care of their heart through regular exercise and good nutrition and by eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking, which may contribute to early menopause and increase the risk of blood clots, Dr. Cedrone said.
Visit www.heart.org for dietary guidelines and exercise recommendations provided by the American Heart Association.