Menopause can increase the risk of heart disease due to a decrease in oestrogen levels and other hormone-related factors. Manage menopausal risks by managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
Menopause does not cause heart disease but there are certain heart disease risk factors associated with this natural life stage. These risks begin to increase in the years leading up to menopause and continue after menopause.
Women usually develop heart disease several years later than men, which is why it may go undetected. Yet, it is still the leading cause of death in women.
Why does menopause increase the risk of heart disease?
Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can also occur earlier in some women. Menopause is officially defined as when a woman has not had a period for 1 year or occurs after surgical removal of the ovaries or after taking certain medications, such as chemotherapy.
At menopause, oestrogen levels begin to decline. Oestrogen protects the heart in several ways. It helps keep blood vessels relaxed and open, which promotes good blood flow and prevents cholesterol build-up and it helps regulate blood pressure.
During menopause, the ovaries stop producing oestrogen, the hormone that controls the menstrual cycle. This oestrogen can help keep blood vessels strong and smooth. As menopause approaches, the ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen. In the years before, during and after menopause.
Symptoms may be partial or absent, the most common of which are :
- Feeling hot on the face
- Sleep disturbance
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness and pain
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
Estrogen also affects the immune system. Women may be at higher risk of developing autoimmune disorders during the menopausal transition. Autoimmune disorders are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
According to research by the American Heart Association, other menopause-related factors can increase the risk of heart disease, namely:
- Sleep disturbance
- Decrease in lean muscle mass
- Increased visceral fat, a type of fat stored inside your stomach
- Early menopause (age 45 or younger)
So, a combination of factors related to menopausal status can affect heart health.
Several steps can be taken before, during and after menopause to reduce the risk of heart disease, including:
- No smoking (either tobacco or vape)
- Doing regular exercise
- Following a heart-healthy diet
- Have a healthy weight
- Controlling risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and alcohol use