Menopause is a natural part of aging for women, and it often comes with some uncomfortable symptoms. Complex hormonal changes can cause everything from hot flashes to night sweats and headaches. But that’s not all—menopause could also be contributing to your risk for heart disease.
“There is no established direct between menopause and heart disease. However we do know that women’s heart health risks increase after menopause,” explains Beverly Vaughn, MD, gynecologist at Lankenau Medical Center and Main Line HealthCare Lafayette Hill. “Most women aren’t affected until a few years after menopause, which is why it’s so important to make a long-term commitment to a healthy lifestyle.”
One of the most common reasons for an increased heart disease risk after menopause is weight gain. This risk is the same for men and women, but it becomes more difficult for women to achieve or maintain a healthy weight as they age. In general, women have a higher percentage of body fat than muscle as compared to men. This is part of the explanation for the difficulty in weight loss.
A diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like nuts, lean meats, and fish, and moderate portions of carbohydrates and dairy can help maintain both a healthy weight and a healthy heart. Exercise also plays a vital role in healthy living.
After menopause cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure may increase, all of which can contribute to heart disease. During visits with your primary care doctor, be sure to review these values.
Menopause is a natural part of aging, but it doesn’t have to mean heart disease. Talk to your gynecologist, primary care doctor, and cardiologist about how to manage your risks.
- See related stories: Women’s Unique Stroke Symptoms