Everyone who menstruates will go through menopause at some point. Also known as the end of a woman’s fertility, menopause occurs around age 50, unless a medical procedure such as a hysterectomy brings it on sooner. And while it’s natural and not a disease, menopause can bring challenges that go beyond hot flashes and mood swings.
Menopause raises your risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in women. Given that February is Heart Disease Awareness Month, it’s an especially good time to learn more about these issues and ways to prevent or manage them.
Dr. Christopher Serrano and his team at Serrano OBGyn can help you navigate menopause with grace. Keep reading to learn more.
The menopause-heart disease link
No one knows exactly why a woman’s risk for heart disease increases around the same time her periods stop, but the connection is well-established. After age 50, about 50% of all women’s deaths result from some form of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
Some experts believe that the lower levels of estrogen associated with menopause are to blame, because the hormone helps keep your arterial walls flexible and thin, allowing for normal blood flow. That said, hormone replacement therapy isn’t known to lower the risk for heart disease. Lifestyle changes that often accompany middle age, such as less physical activity, or sleep loss linked with menopause, may also contribute.
Other heart disease risk factors
If you have additional risk factors for heart disease, you’ll want to be especially conscientious about your cardiovascular health as you move toward or experience menopause. These risk factors include:
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Carrying excess weight
- Chronic sleep loss
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol
- Family history of heart disease
- Having diabetes
- Substance abuse
What you can do
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to lower your risk for heart disease and its complications, no matter your age. For starters, schedule routine heart screenings, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar tests. Many of these tests take place at annual physicals, but your doctor might recommend more frequent tests if you show signs of early heart disease.
Healthy lifestyle habits are hugely important for lowering your risk for heart disease, too. Aim to:
- Exercise regularly, for a stronger heart and improved circulation
- Eat a heart-healthy diet, for improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels
- Maintain healthy sleep habits, for reduced inflammation
Basics of a heart-healthy diet include:
- Emphasizing nutrient-dense whole foods, such as vegetables and fruits
- Choosing primarily whole grains, such as oats and brown rice, over refined grains, like white flour and instant rice
- Swapping out unhealthy fat sources, such as red meat, fried foods, and whole milk, with healthy fat sources, such as cold-water fish, avocado, and olive oil
Learn much more about the heart disease-menopause connection by calling us at 210-761-5309 or contacting us online. Our team would love to help you stay as healthy as possible from menopause on.