To raise awareness of menopause, the International Menopause Society joined forces with the World Health Organisation to designate October as World Menopause Month and 18th October is the focus day for Menopause. Each year since the onset of the movement in 2009, a theme is announced to focus discussions and awareness. This year’s theme is cardiovascular disease.
According to the World Heart Foundation cardiovascular disease, (CVD) is the leading cause of death in women worldwide. In fact, approximately 35% of deaths in women are due to CVD which is more than all cancers combined.
Women are more underdiagnosed and undertreated than men and popular misconceptions around risk leave women more vulnerable to poor outcomes.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease is the broad term for conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. These can include heart attacks; angina; heart failure; stroke; TIA, (often referred to as “mini strokes”); peripheral arterial disease; and aortic aneurysm.
What happens to cardiovascular health during menopause?
Prior to menopause, women produce Oestrogen which has many protective qualities for the cardiovascular system. Oestrogen helps to regulate cholesterol levels by assisting the liver to maintain the levels of “good” cholesterol, (HDL) whilst filtering out the “bad” cholesterol, (LDL).
As the Oestrogen levels drop in perimenopause and menopause the “bad” cholesterol can build up in the blood vessels creating hard plaques which build up causing the vessels to narrow and making the heart work harder.
What else can impact cardiovascular health?
Other factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high alcohol intake, inactivity, obesity, family history and poor diet all increase the risk of CVD. Therefore, lifestyle changes are essential at any age but especially important to support cardiovascular health as Oestrogen levels begin to fall.
What can I do to improve cardiovascular health during menopause?
Stopping smoking is the most important lifestyle change an individual can make for overall health and well-being. Reducing alcohol intake and increasing exercise, especially cardiovascular exercises, will help to reduce blood pressure. Also, ensure you are eating a balanced diet to lower cholesterol risk.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is known to help protect cardiovascular health by replacing the missing Oestrogen allowing the body to function as before.
The gender misconception with cardiovascular disease
It is often wrongly believed that “heart problems” only affect men. Sadly, because of this misconception early diagnosis in women may be missed and many women die prematurely. With the right management both by the individual and healthcare professionals, can reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality in perimenopause and menopause from CVD and increase the quality and longevity of life.
If you would like more information or advice about menopause and cardiovascular disease, book a 1-1 with a menopause expert either via the myTamarin website or app.
International Menopause Society, (2023) World Menopause Day. www.imsociety.org
NHS, (2022) Cardiovascular Disease. www.nhs.uk
British Heart Foundation, (2023) Women and Heart Disease – The Gender Gap. www.bhf.org.uk
World Health Organisation, (2021) cardiovascular disease. www.who.int
British Heart Foundation, (2023) CVD Factsheet. www.bhf.org.uk
World Heart Foundation, (2023) Women & CVD. www.world-heart-foundation.org
British Heart Foundation, (2023) Menopause and Heart Disease. www.bhf.org.uk
Verywell Health, (2022) How Oestrogen Affects a Woman’s Heart. www.verywellhealth.com
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