Why Menopause Increases Risk for Heart Disease

Why Menopause Increases Risk for Heart Disease

Menopause increases a woman's heart disease risk. A woman experiences this increased risk whether she begins menopause as part of the natural aging process or as a result of surgery. Even women who begin menopause at an earlier-than-normal age have a heightened risk of developing heart disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heart disease is the second most likely cause of death for women over 45. For those over 65, it is the top cause of death. Fortunately, there are many things women can do to lower their risk of heart disease after their child-bearing years are over.

Uncertainty about Hormones

Doctors and researchers aren’t 100-percent sure what causes the link between heart disease and menopause. According to the American Heart Association, dropping levels of estrogen may help to boost the risk. However, there’s no definitive answer as to whether or not this is true. Some studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy might help to lower a woman’s risk after menopause. Others, however, have shown either no benefit from estrogen replacement or an increased risk for those taking a combination of estrogen and progesterone.

Lack of Exercise

After menopause, a woman may slow down physically and stop exercising as much as she used to. This may be a contributing factor in increased risk for heart disease. To keep the heart healthy, exercise is crucial at least three times per week. If possible, exercising for 30 minutes per day is even better. Anything that increases the heart rate can be good for heart disease prevention, including walking, dancing and aerobics.

Eating Habits after Menopause

If a woman becomes less conscious of eating well after menopause, she may put herself at risk of not only heart problems, but also diabetes and high cholesterol. A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet is a risk factor in poor heart health as a woman grows older. Opting for a low-fat, high-fiber diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables may help to keep the heart healthy well into the golden years.

Obesity is another contributing factor in heart disease. If a woman overeats after menopause and gains too much weight, the heart has to work harder to keep the blood flowing through her body. Eating well can help to maintain a healthy weight and a well-functioning heart muscle.

Poorly Managed Health Conditions

As women age, their risk of certain health conditions often increases. This includes health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They can decrease they risk by seeing the doctor regularly and taking any medications he prescribes for managing chronic health conditions.

Smoking after Menopause

While smoking is unhealthy at any age, it’s particularly important to avoid it after menopause. People who smoke are twice as likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers. Coupling this risk with that brought on by menopause is a recipe for disaster. Women need to quit smoking to protect their hearts.