Written by Melissa MacGowan, Founder at Meno Collective
Menopause Awareness & Heart Disease
It’s a silent epidemic that affects women globally and surpasses breast cancer as the leading cause of female mortality. Shockingly, 40% of heart attacks in women are fatal, often striking without warning. But why don’t we talk about heart disease more?
Historically, heart disease was considered a ‘man’s thing,’ leading to skewed research and a lack of understanding of women’s unique symptoms. Here, we’ll shed light on the connection between menopause and heart health, and the importance of raising awareness and providing insights into how you can protect your cardiovascular wellbeing during this life stage.
The Heart of The Gender Gap
For decades, heart disease research predominantly focused on men, perpetuating the myth that it primarily affected them. It wasn’t until the 1980s that it became evident that women faced similar risks. The thing is, women often experience atypical symptoms like nausea and fatigue, leading to misdiagnosis or delayed treatment. Multiple studies have also shown that women may face longer wait times in emergency rooms compared to men, further complicating the issue.
The Impact of Menopause on Cardiovascular Health
During menopause, hormonal fluctuations disrupt the delicate balance in the body, leading to increased cholesterol levels. Estrogen, a protective factor, promotes ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and keeps blood vessels supple, aiding blood flow. On the flip side, declining estrogen levels result in a higher ratio of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, leading to atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart disease. While hormones don’t cause heart disease, they play a significant role in influencing risks, highlighting the importance of considering these factors when exploring treatment options for menopausal symptoms.
Understanding the Risk of Menopause
Although natural menopause does not cause an immediate increase in the risk of heart disease, it signals a period of increasing risk related to both age and estrogen deficiency. Recognizing this transition is crucial for taking control of your heart health during menopause.
Taking Control of Your Heart Health
Given that women are six times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer, it’s important to prioritize cardiovascular health during and after menopause.
Here are six ways you can do this:
1. Regular Screening: Periodic check-ups that include cholesterol level monitoring and heart health assessments can help detect early signs of cardiovascular issues.
2. Nutrition: Reducing saturated fats and sugars can help maintain heart health. Embrace a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
3. Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, to improve heart health and maintain a healthy weight.
4. Smoking Cessation: Quitting smoking is paramount, as it reduces good cholesterol and exacerbates heart disease risks. Seek support and resources to quit successfully.
5. Stress Management: Chronic stress can negatively impact heart health. Explore stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness, meditation, or yoga to promote well-being.
6. Medications: If cholesterol levels are dangerously high, medication or clinical procedures may be necessary to prevent complications. Consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.
By understanding the connection between menopause and heart health, recognizing the risk factors, and taking proactive measures, women can improve their overall wellbeing and reduce the risk of heart disease, ultimately living healthier, longer lives.
Here are some other useful resources: