Menopause is a natural transition in a woman's life that signifies the end of her reproductive years. While it brings about various physical and hormonal changes, one aspect that needs more attention is its impact on an individual's cardiovascular health. Menopause can potentially increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Understanding this connection is crucial for women and healthcare professionals to implement appropriate measures to promote heart health during this life stage.
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Cardiovascular Health in Adults
Coronary Heart Disease is the biggest killer in the UK with around 74,000 deaths per year. Men can experience heart problems, including heart attacks at any age whereas women are more likely to experience cardiac issues later in life. The average age of first heart attacks in men is 65 years, in women it is 72 years of age.
Research into the discrepancy between men and women has indicated a clear link between Oestrogen and cardiovascular protection. It is believed the cardiovascular system has Oestrogen receptors throughout, (these are like specific parking spots for specific hormones,) which allow the system to function.
What's the link between menopause and cardiovascular health?
It is believed Oestrogen maintains blood vessels keeping them supple and strong to allow them to pump blood around the body more efficiently; It helps to maintain blood pressure at a safe level; it keeps a high level of “good” cholesterol, (HDL) whilst reducing “bad” cholesterol, (LDL); It helps the blood to clot when necessary and absorbs particles that may cause damage.
When an individual enters peri and menopause the level of Oestrogen fluctuates and then drops leaving the cardiovascular system vulnerable to damage and raising the risk of a cardiac event occurring.
What can be done to improve cardiovascular health in menopause?
Lifestyle changes play an essential role in cardiovascular health regardless of age but is especially important in peri and menopause. Diet should include at least 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day; increased fibre intake and reduction in saturated fats. Exercise is vital to regulate blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight and allow adequate blood flow throughout the body.
Alcohol should be kept to a minimum, no more than 2 x units per day, and smoking should be stopped as this is detrimental to all aspects of health including cardiovascular.
Hormone Replacement Therapy, (HRT) is known to offer protection to the cardiovascular system by replacing the Oestrogen the body is lacking especially if commenced early in the perimenopause. Those individuals experiencing early menopause or Premature Ovarian Insufficiency are especially at risk of cardiovascular problems and should begin HRT as soon as diagnosis is confirmed.
Menopause and Perimenopause can cause several issues for the individual that can be embarrassing, inconvenient and problematic. However, the long-term problems caused by these conditions can be devastating and lead to increased morbidity and/or early mortality. Medication and healthy, lifestyle changes can help to combat these effects and improve health outcomes and increase longevity.
Unhealthy Britain: The Nations 5 Biggest Killers, (2023) www.bbc,co.uk
Heart Attack Facts and Statistics, (2023) www.verywellhealth.com
Cardiovascular Diseases, (2021) www.who.int
2022 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, (2022) www.heart.org
It’s Complicated, the Relationship Between your Heart and Hormones, (2021) www.endocrineweb.com
How Oestrogen Affects a Woman’s Health, (2022) www.verywellhealth.com
Menopause and the Cardiovascular System, (2023) www.hopkinsmedicine.org
Menopause and your Heart, (2023) Menopause and Your Heart. www.bhf.org.uk
The Connection Between Menopause and Cardiovascular Disease Risks, (2023) www.heart.org