Cholesterol and CVD both increase during menopause, however, Cardio Vascular Disease is generally considered a male health issue.,
Still, in women going through menopause and postmenopausal women, the risk of CVD increases four-fold, and it goes largely unrecognized.
In fact, more women die of heart disease and stroke than the next 16 causes combined, including breast cancer.
Yet, the biggest fear for women is still breast cancer, especially in relation to HRT.
Changes in fat distribution from our hips to our middle during menopause increase our risk of CVD, as does being overweight.
Cholesterol levels naturally increase with age, but for women, it is the increase in LDL (bad) and a decrease in HDL (good) cholesterol that is the big issue.
Oestrogen causes a reduction in overall cholesterol levels, increases good cholesterol, and reduces bad cholesterol.
Hence, as we lose this protective hormone, our risk increases.
Oestrogen has been shown to have a protective ability against CVD, in many studies decreasing risk by some 40-50%, probably because Oestrogen promotes healthy blood vessels and may help delay plaque formation.
Knowing the signs
Symptoms of a cardiac event such as a heart attack also differ in women, we have a much wider scope of symptoms, these include –
- Back, neck or jaw pain or tightness
- Burning sensation in chest similar to heartburn
- Shortness of breath
- Chest Discomfort
Heart Disease in Menopause Is Preventable
“On the good side, a lot of this is reversible or preventable,” Foody says. Menopause is an important time to take good care of yourself and your heart.
Women who exercise, don’t smoke (or quit), monitor themselves for weight gain, and eat a healthy, nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower their risk of heart disease as they age.
“We know that women who exercise tend not to get high blood pressure as much. And exercise can also prevent your heart from stiffening as you age,” Foody says.
So what of the reports that HRT increases Cardiovascular risk?
A 1998 study found that women with a known CVD diagnosis did have an increased risk of a heart incident, but only in the first year.
What is known is that taking HRT early into menopause and before the age of 60 has the most significant benefit.
Therefore it’s essential to know your stats and ensure you have regular Cholesterol and BP checks.