First off, heart disease is no joke for us women. It’s actually one of the top reasons for death among our gender, even more so than all types of cancer put together1. Yikes! But knowledge is power, and that’s why we’re here chatting about it.
When we reach menopause, our risk of heart disease increases. This is because estrogen, a hormone that protects our hearts, declines during menopause. This drop in estrogen can lead to a number of changes, including:
Hot flashes, another common symptom of menopause, can also worsen sleep and mood problems. All of these changes can create a perfect storm for heart problems, which can last for up to seven or eight years.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease During Menopause
Making lifestyle changes is key to reducing your risk of heart disease during menopause. Here are some tips:
- Kick smoking to the curb. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, and it’s even more dangerous during menopause.
- Get regular exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. You should also include strength training exercises at least twice a week.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose foods that are low in salt, saturated fat, and processed carbohydrates. Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Monitor your health numbers. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Aim for a BMI under 25 and a blood pressure under 120/80.
Now, a quick word on aspirin and our hearts. For most of us who haven’t had heart issues, aspirin isn’t really the go-to, as it doesn’t majorly cut down the risk of stroke or death and only seems to reduce heart attack risk, while upping the risk of bleeding. But for those who’ve had heart events like strokes or heart attacks, aspirin might be on the cards.
HRT can lower heart risks for some women, especially those who go through menopause early. A 2002 study linked HRT to increased breast cancer and heart attack risks2, but a later review found that the breast cancer risk was not as significant as initially thought, and the heart attack risk data was skewed by the selection of participants.
HRT does have some risks, such as an increased risk of gallstones and blood clots in the legs and lungs. Therefore, the decision of whether or not to take HRT should be made on a case-by-case basis after a thorough discussion with your doctor.
And that’s a wrap! Remember, our bodies are always throwing new challenges our way, but with the right info and a few tweaks here and there, we can navigate through them like the queens we are!
- University Hospitals. (2018, February 26). What’s the leading health risk for women? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.uhhospitals.org/blog/articles/2018/02/whats-the-leading-health-risk-for-women ↩︎
- Henneberger, J., & Kirsch, P. (2016). The role of the microbiota in inflammatory bowel disease. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 13(12), 711-721. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5415400/ ↩︎