As a woman approaches menopause, she experiences many significant hormonal changes including the long term decline of estrogen and progesterone. Find out how these hormonal changes impact your heart health below!
What happens during menopause?
Menopause becomes official when a woman has not had her period for 12 consecutive months. During perimenopause, which can last anywhere from a couple months to several years, estrogen levels severely decline when a woman stops ovulating as the ovaries stop releasing eggs.
At this point, menstruation will stop and the body will adjust to the new normals of lower sex hormone levels. During this time, a woman’s risk of heart disease increases significantly as well.
Side effects of menopause
Symptoms of menopause include irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, and more. There are many natural remedies that are often recommended to soother menopause symptoms including wild yam, vitex, and yoga.
Menopause symptoms vary based on individuals, but if you have other underlying conditions, you could be at greater risk to develop diseases post menopause. Those who smoke, have high blood pressure, are obese, have cholesterol issues, or have a family history of heart problems are generally more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases.
10 years after menopause, women are more likely to see a veritable increase in their risk of heart disease, so it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and be active.
Menopause and heart disease
Since estrogen has a generally positive impact on the heart by increasing blood flow, experts believe that declining estrogen levels, coupled with other bodily changes during menopause, can put you at greater risk for heart disease.
Experts have observed that after menopause, blood pressure and triglycerides increase, while good cholesterol decreases and bad cholesterol increases. This could be d
ue to a variety of factors and could even be a result of progesterone and testosterone changes, although those impacts have not been thoroughly studied currently.
Implementing key lifestyle changes are some of the most easy and accessible ways to promote heart health. Quitting smoking, exercising daily and following a healthy diet are all simple ways to lower your risk of heart disease.
Exercise has many great benefits for the heart, including improving blood flow, reducing high blood pressure, lowering blood sugar levels, and reducing stress. Adhering to a healthy diet can keep cholesterol levels in check and prevent obesity, which is known to be a factor that increases risk of heart disease.
If you have other underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol, it is important to ensure you are seeking treatment for them as well.
Hormone Replacement Treatments
In terms of hormone replacement therapy, some experts will recommend taking HRT if less than 10 years have passed since you first hit menopause. At this age, some studies have shown that HRT can have beneficial effects and reduce risk of heart attacks or strokes. However, after the 10 year mark, HRT could potentially increase risk of heart disease, so it is generally not recommended.
While HRT is not specifically recommended to lower risk of heart disease, it does have other significant benefits such as lowering risk of osteoporosis, managing menopause symptoms, and helping those with conditions such as estrogen deficiency, so make sure you consult your physician about which decision is best for you!
It is also important to be aware of the potential side effects of HRT including bloating, headaches, nausea, and potentially increased risk of blood clots, so make sure you weigh the costs and benefits thoroughly before making a decision.
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