During menopause, a woman undergoes many physiological changes that impact overall health, and can increase the risk of heart disease or heart attack after menopause up to 30 percent. Living a healthy lifestyle up to and during menopause can help to reduce your risk, but education and some steps of prevention will help to reduce your risk even further. Dr. Alqulali talks about the impact of menopause on hormones and hearts with her patients to make them aware of their increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why does menopause increase my risk of heart disease?
One reason the risk of heart disease increases as a result of menopause is because your cholesterol changes. Your LDL cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, increases while your HDL, or "good" cholesterol, stays the same. Increased LDL cholesterol can mean blockages that can put a strain on your heart as it works to pump blood. Increasing the strain on your heart can increase blood pressure, too. These factors can result in heart attack or stroke.
Another factor is the decrease in estrogen that occurs during menopause. Estrogen is believed to have a positive impact on your arteries and helps to protect your heart by keeping blood vessels flexible. When your estrogen levels are diminished, blood vessels can become rigid and make be harder for your heart to pump blood.
What can I do about it?
If you’re experiencing menopause or perimenopause, the first step in reducing your risk of heart disease is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will order a series of tests to check cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugars to assess your current state of health, and design a treatment plan if necessary. This treatment plan may include medications to help manage cholesterol or blood pressure.
Another way to combat heart disease during menopause is to exercise. Activities like walking or swimming are ideal, with a target of 30 minutes of activity at least 5 times per week. Be sure to discuss your exercise plan with your doctor before you begin.
You can also reduce your risk by eating a healthy diet made up of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and lean proteins like fish or chicken. You should also avoid fried or fatty foods. Take care to watch your sugar intake during this period, as menopause can also signal the beginning of diabetes for some women.
Questions about menopause? Call Dr. Alqulali at 1-888-716-0559.