Published on Mar 17, 2023 - 4 min read
Menopause is a natural biological process and impacts the overall health of women. Read the article below to learn more about its effects on cardiac health.
Menopause is a time that states the end of the menstrual cycle and is diagnosed when there is no menstruation for regular 12 months. It averagely hits women at the age of 40 or 50, but the average age is 51 years. Hot flashes, sleep disruption, emotional symptoms, depression, drop in energy levels, hair thinning, vaginal dryness, chills, loss of breast fullness, night sweats, weight gain, and slow metabolism are some of its symptoms.
The research between menopause and cardiac health has established a weak connection. The risk factors like increasing bad cholesterol LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and decreasing good cholesterol HDL (high-density lipoprotein) also occur at this stage. Women with early menopause (45 or younger) have more cardiac health issues than those who have menopause near the normal age of 50 years. Many complex hormone changes occur during menopause. Early menopause greatly impacts cardiac health, but it is still a matter of debate. General aging can also be attributed along with menopause for its effect on cardiac health.
A drop in estrogen levels has a great impact on the body; the effects are:
High Cholesterol: Menopause leads to detrimental changes in blood fats and cholesterol that can lead to artery-clogging atherosclerosis. This condition leads to rising LDL and decreasing HDL. Too much cholesterol can lead to plaque formation in arteries and stroke or heart attack.
Metabolic Syndrome: Women are more likely to get metabolic syndrome, a combination of elevated blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess belly fat. Menopause is linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and increases the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
Gaining Belly Fat: Women tend to weigh more, especially around the midsection. This fat around the midsection can increase the risk of heart disease.
Depression: Depression can negatively impact your heart and, along with distress and stress, reduces blood flow to the heart, leading to rising blood pressure and increased heart rate. This increases stress hormone levels like cortisol.
Sleep Disruption: Restless sleep is one of the initial symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Chronically disrupted sleep can increase risk factors for heart disease. In addition, blood pressure naturally takes a dip when we are asleep.
During menopause, the ovaries gradually stop producing the hormone estrogen. To replace this estrogen and to help to regulate the common symptoms of menopause, this hormone replacement therapy is taken. These HRT products are generally in the form of pills and skin creams and can be taken intravaginally. Intake of estrogen alone can increase the risk of getting endometrial cancer. During the initial stages of menopause, the body sheds endometrial cells. Introducing estrogen can stop this and cause an overgrowth of these cells leading to cancerous tissues.
Estrogen is often taken and prescribed with progesterone to reverse or mitigate the growth of the endometrium. This cell overgrowth is not an issue for women with a history of hysterectomies (a surgical procedure to remove the uterus), and estrogen alone is prescribed. The main benefit of hormone replacement therapy is to relieve menopausal symptoms like night sweats, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, reduced sex drive, and mood swings.
Hormone replacement therapy is useful in controlling menopausal symptoms and preventing osteoporosis. Women with an intact womb taking estrogen with progesterone and having a history of hysterectomies took the estrogen or a placebo. Cardiovascular benefits from both these groups taking hormone supplements show a mild increase in thrombosis and stroke. Therefore, hormone therapy is not recommended after menopause for cardiac protection. Hormone replacements after menopause should be under medical supervision and manage menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. Women are not advised to use HRT to reduce cardiovascular risk.
A heart attack occurs when there is restricted blood flow to the heart. The blockage of the arteries is mainly caused by cholesterol, the buildup of fat, and other substances in heart arteries. As a result, plaque is formed and built up in the arteries, called atherosclerosis or myocardial infarction. If immediate care is not provided for an individual at the time of the attack, it can lead to impromptu consequences like death.
Signs and symptoms of heart attack are different in different women. For example, intense chest pain can feel more like discomfort and chest pressure. Common signs of heart attack are shortness of breath, back pain, radiating pain in hands, neck, and jaw, unusual fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.
A healthy lifestyle and healthy diet, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking before menopause can help in defending the heart against cardiac disease. Many ways to be proactive in post-menopausal heart health are:
Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Maintain a healthy weight, and check triglycerides and cholesterol levels. Lifestyle changes and medication can help in setting weight loss goals.
Learning About Family History: The risk of heart attack can largely lie in the part of our genes. Having detailed information about family history can help to maintain heart health.
Managing Diabetes: As diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, it affects blood circulation, so maintaining and controlling blood sugar levels can help maintain heart health.
Stop Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, so quitting it can help maintain heart health.
Being Active: Exercising regularly and managing weight can lower heart health risks. Regular exercise can help keep weight in check. Exercises like aerobics, yoga, and normal activities like walking, running, and jogging can help in gaining benefits.
Taking a High-Fiber and Low-Fat Diet: Including more fruits, vegetables, and a high-fiber diet can increase heart health.
Menopause is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as estrogen levels reduce, which harms cardiovascular metabolism and function. Many associated risk factors trigger cardiac health, including increased blood pressure, sympathetic tone, abnormal plasma lipids, gynoid to the android pattern, reduced glucose intolerance, endothelial dysfunction, vascular dysfunction, and abnormal plasma lipids. In most cases of post-menopausal women, treating glucose intolerance and arterial hypertension should be a priority.
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17 Mar 2023 - 4 min read
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