Menopause doesn’t actually cause heart disease. However, certain risk factors increase when women stop menstruating. Having a high-fat diet, smoking, and other unhealthy habits may also affect heart health.
The risk of heart disease increases as people age, but for women, the symptoms may be more obvious after the onset of menopause.
The average age of menopause is 45 years old. This stage is called perimenopause. There has been an increase in heart attacks among women 10 years after experiencing menopause.
One can say that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. One of every three adult women has some form of heart disease.
The Connection Between Menopause and Heart Health
Menopause occurs when a woman stops getting her period. It’s a natural process that women experience around the age of 50, but it can happen earlier.
During menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, a hormone that controls the menstrual cycle. Estrogen can also help keep blood vessels strong and smooth.
Menopause doesn’t cause heart disease, but its occurrence increases risk factors that can evolve into heart conditions.
During menopause, you may experience:
- Higher blood pressure.
- Higher levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
- Lower levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which helps regulate some of the “bad” cholesterol levels.
- Higher levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat).
While there may be a connection between estrogen and a lower risk of heart disease and stroke (before menopause), doctors don’t recommend taking estrogen to prevent heart disease after menopause.
Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women
Both men and women have a higher risk of heart disease as they age. You may even think that some symptoms are normal from getting older, but that may not be the case. In this regard, it’s important you go see your doctor if you have:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Fatigue, or feeling very tired
- Swollen feet or ankles
The symptoms of a heart attack in women and men may differ. Most women will have chest pain, arm pain, or shortness of breath. Other symptoms tend to be mild and may include:
- Chest pain or pressure that comes and goes
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Pain in the jaw, neck, arm, or back
- Excessive fatigue
You can help reduce the risk of heart disease as you get older by adopting healthy habits from an early age. Here are a few recommendations to keep your heart healthy:
Choose a fiber-rich healthy diet and reduce your salt, sugar, and processed foods intake.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products can play an important role in keeping your heart healthy.
Do regular physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity activity, such as walking, biking, dancing, or gardening, at least five days a week.
Avoid or stop smoking and using tobacco products. No matter how long you’ve been smoking, it’s never too late to quit.
Find healthy ways to deal with stress. Find a hobby, try meditation or yoga, and make sure you exercise moderately.
Look for a treatment for depression. Some studies have shown that middle-aged women with depression are twice as likely to have a stroke.
Visit your doctor regularly. Checkups will help you keep an eye on the risk factors, give you a space to talk about symptoms, and get early treatment.
Menopause isn’t a disease. It’s a natural stage of a woman’s life cycle. It’s important that women assess their health as they approach menopause.