Menopause is a natural part of life that every woman goes through. The average age range of menopause, which is when you stop having your menstrual cycle, is 48 to 55. Officially, menopause starts when you stop menstruating for a full year.
The time leading up to menopause, when your body prepares itself for this stage of life, is called perimenopause. During perimenopause and menopause, your body goes through changes, which is why menopause is sometimes referred to as “the change of life” and marks the time when you can no longer become pregnant.
Some women experience hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness. Some don’t. All women experience menopause differently with different symptoms and severity of symptoms. But one thing that all women experience during menopause is an increased risk of heart disease.
The menopause and heart disease connection
Medical experts have determined that a woman’s risk for heart disease goes up at about the same time that she reaches menopause, but they haven’t determined for certain why. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women. After age 50, about half of all women’s deaths are the result of some form of heart disease.
One theory that connects menopause with this alarming statistic is the reduction in estrogen production that occurs during menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that is thought to help keep the inner layer of the artery walls flexible so that the arteries can accommodate blood flow. But the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which helps replace estrogen levels and relieve menopause symptoms, has not reduced heart disease.
How to prevent heart disease
Regardless of why menopausal women are at higher risk of developing heart disease, there are ways to reduce your risks. At the practice of A. Michael Coppa, MD, we recommend the following:
See your doctor regularly for screenings
You should see your doctor for regular heart health screenings. According to the American Heart Association, you should get:
- Your cholesterol checked every five years
- Your blood pressure checked every two years
- Your blood glucose checked every three years
- Your waist circumference and weight measured every year
If your doctor detects a problem, you may need more frequent screenings.
Reduce risk factors
There are numerous lifestyle risk factors associated with an elevated risk of heart disease. You’re at an increased risk if you:
- Have diabetes
- Are overweight or obese
Reducing or eliminating these factors can lower your risk.
Your heart is a muscle. By exercising that muscle, you make it stronger. Being active most days of the week, or at least 150 minutes a week doesn’t just improve how well your heart pumps blood through your body. It helps reduce other risk factors such as your cholesterol and blood sugar levels to improve your overall health.
Eat a healthy diet
Follow a healthy diet of foods low in saturated and trans fat and high in fiber, whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and fish.
For more information about reducing menopause symptoms and your risk of developing heart disease, call one of our offices or request an appointment using our online tool on this website.