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Menopause and Heart Disease

 

by the Go Red For Women Editors

Your body goes through many changes as you age and menopause is one of those changes. According to Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at New York University Langone Medical Center, most women experience the onset of menopause around 54 years old.

Studies have shown an increase in heart attacks among women about 10 years after experiencing menopause. Why?

Estrogen levels drop during menopause

Estrogen helps arteries be more flexible and strengthens their interior walls. Menopause leads to a decline in estrogen; this may be a reason in an increase of heart disease in post-menopausal women.

Note: The American Heart Association does not recommend using postmenopausal hormone therapies. Studies have shown that these treatments do not reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to Dr. Goldberg, scientists and doctors say a decrease of estrogen isn’t the only reason for an increase in heart disease, and that researchers are actively searching for more comprehensive answers.

Blood pressure, bad cholesterol increase during menopause

In addition to a drop in estrogen, a woman’s body goes through other changes when in menopause. For starters, blood pressure levels start to go up. In addition, bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, levels may increase and good cholesterol, or HDL, may decline or stay the same.

Triglycerides, or groups of fatty cells contained within blood vessels, also go up during and after menopause.

How to fight postmenopausal heart disease

There are several ways to stay healthy during and after menopause. The American Heart Association recommends eating healthy, whole foods (4.5 cups of fruits and veggies and 6 to 8 servings in whole grains per day) and exercising at least 150 minutes per week to stay heart healthy.

Learn more about Menopause and Heart Disease from the American Heart Association on Heart.org.