How Does Menopause Affect Your Cardiovascular Health?
October marks World Menopause Month, with World Menopause Day landing on Wednesday18th October. A day to celebrate, and raise awareness of menopause and the effect it can have on all of us.
The theme for World Menopause Day this year is cardiovascular health - a subject which is just as important for us all, particularly after menopause.
To celebrate this month and day, I'm sharing a guest post from the wonderful Sheetal, from 6PillarHealth, all about menopause and heart health.
Sheetal highlights the fact that many people do not realise that, thanks to a variety of changes, after menopause, their risk of cardiovascular disease increases.
To explain more, here's Sheetal detailing how those various aspects of menopause can affect the health of your heart.
Cardiovascular health and the effect of Menopause
Oestrogen plays a pivotal role in maintaining cardiovascular health and disease, an umbrella term for conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, such as coronary heart disease and stroke.
It helps keep blood vessels flexible and regulates cholesterol levels. However, during menopause, oestrogen levels drop or fluctuate, which can lead to changes in the cardiovascular system. Some of the key changes include the following:
Cholesterol Levels: Reduced oestrogen can lead to higher levels of LDL cholesterol and lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good" type), a combination that raises the risk of atherosclerosis.
Blood Pressure: Blood pressure tends to rise after menopause as blood vessels become stiffer, making women more susceptible to hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease.
Weight Gain: Many women experience weight gain during menopause, especially around the abdominal area. This can contribute to insulin resistance and further elevate cardiovascular risk.
Inflammation: Menopause can trigger an increase in inflammatory markers in the body, which is associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Metabolic Changes: Insulin resistance and changes in glucose metabolism can occur during menopause, increasing the risk of diabetes, another significant contributor to CVD.
Palpitations: Chaining hormone level can cause palpitations (feeling your heart beating faster than usual). These can coincide with a hot flush or a night sweat or occur on their own.
Heart attacks in women
The signs of a heart attack in women are different from men. Recognising these differences is crucial because it can lead to early detection and timely medical intervention, which greatly improves the chances of survival and recovery.
These are some signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women:
Chest Pain or Discomfort: Women may experience chest pain differently. It can be described as a squeezing, pressure, fullness, or burning sensation. Some women may not feel severe chest pain but rather mild discomfort or pressure.
Pain in Other Areas: Women are more likely than men to experience pain in areas other than the chest. This can include pain in the back, neck, jaw, shoulder, or abdomen. It may be mistaken for indigestion or muscle pain.
Shortness of Breath: Women may experience difficulty breathing or shortness of breath before or during a heart attack. It may be accompanied by chest discomfort or occur without chest pain.
Nausea or Vomiting: Feeling nauseated or vomiting can be a symptom of a heart attack in women. It is often mistaken for gastrointestinal problems.
Sweating: Women experiencing a heart attack may break out in a cold sweat that is unrelated to physical activity or the surrounding temperature.
Fatigue: Unusual fatigue, sometimes described as an extreme tiredness or a feeling of being suddenly drained of energy, can be a sign of a heart attack in women. It may occur days or even weeks before the heart attack.
Lightheadedness or Dizziness: Some women may feel lightheaded or dizzy during a heart attack. This can be a result of decreased blood flow to the brain.
Pain or Discomfort in the Lower Chest or Upper Abdomen: Some women may experience pain or discomfort in the lower chest or upper abdomen, often described as a feeling of fullness or pressure.
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, especially if they are sudden or severe, it's essential to seek medical attention immediately by calling 999.
How can you protect your cardiovascular health during and after menopause?
Stay Active: Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces blood pressure, and improves heart health.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help control cholesterol and blood pressure.
Manage Stress: Stress can exacerbate heart disease risk. Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
Quit Smoking: If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
Regular Check-ups: Keep up with routine health check-ups to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other heart disease risk factors.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Some women may benefit from HRT to manage menopausal symptoms and potentially reduce heart disease risk. However, it's crucial to discuss the benefits and risks with your healthcare provider.
Final thoughts from Sheetal:
Cardiovascular health is significant in the menopause. But with awareness, lifestyle modifications, and regular healthcare check-ups, you can navigate this journey with confidence!
Thank you Sheetal for this wisdom.
To find out more about Sheetal and her work, head to 6 Pillar Health.
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