Menopause and heart disease – a potentially dangerous combination
Has your heart ever started to pound suddenly, scaring you out of your wits because there seems to be no way to slow it down? Bouts of rapid heartbeat are a common complaint associated with menopause and perhaps one of the least expected.
Heart disease and menopause, however, are connected. That’s because menopause brings the loss of estrogen, which is believed to have protective effects on the heart and cardiovascular system.
As a result, once you reach natural menopause, your risk of heart disease increases substantially. The numbers tell the story. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 40, and after age 50, nearly half of all deaths in women are from of cardiovascular disease. That’s more than deaths from all cancers combined.
How can the loss of estrogen affect your cardiovascular risk?
- It makes it more likely for plaque and blood clots to form in the blood vessels by changing the walls of the blood vessels.
- It increases “bad” cholesterol and decreases “good” cholesterol.
- It increases levels of fibrinogen, another factor in the formation of blood clots.
Reducing your risk
Developing heart disease in your menopausal years is not a foregone conclusion if you follow a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of the things you can do to help prevent heart disease.
- Tell your doctor about any irregular heartbeat. Although a rapid heartbeat is often a symptom of menopause, it’s best to let your doctor know so serious causes of rapid heartbeat can be ruled out.
- Avoid smoking or quit if you smoke. Smokers have twice the risk of heart attack as nonsmokers and stay away from secondhand smoke, which also increases as the risk of heart disease.
- Watch your weight. Being overweight contributes to heart disease because your heart has to work harder to supply your body with nutrients.
- Like other muscles, your heart needs exercise to stay strong. You should get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Exercise also has other benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.