Heart disease likely rises after menopause

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Menopause and Heart Disease
Heart disease risk rises for everyone as they aged, but for women symptoms can become more evident after the onset of menopause.

According to Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and an American Heart Association volunteer,“menopause isn’t a disease. It’s a natural phase of a woman’s life cycle.“It’s important for women, as they approach menopause, to really take stock of their health.”

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Menopause does not cause cardiovascular diseases. However, certain risk factors increase around the time of menopause and a high-fat diet, smoking or other unhealthy habits begun earlier in life can also take a toll.  On average the onset of menopause, when menstrual periods permanently stop, occurs around age 54.

More than one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease.  An overall increase in heart attacks among women is seen about 10 years after menopause. Heart disease is the leading killer of women.

Estrogen Levels and Heart disease

A decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase among post-menopausal women. Estrogen is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible. That means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow.

Despite the benefits of estrogen, the American Heart Association recommends against using postmenopausal hormone therapy to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke because some studies have shown it appears to not reduce the risk.

Estrogen decline isn’t the only reason women face a higher cardiovascular disease risk after reaching menopause, assorted changes in the body occur with menopause. Blood pressure starts to go up. LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, tends to increase while HDL, or “good” cholesterol declines or remains the same. Triglycerides, certain types of fats in the blood, also increase.

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Ways to prevent heart disease

A healthy lifestyle before, during and postmenopausal stage will go a long way in reducing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Family history also contributes to the risk.

Regular exercise and good nutrition as well as eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking, which may contribute to early menopause and will also play their role to reduce the risk of blood clots and to decrease the flexibility of arteries and lower the levels of HDL cholesterol.

The American Heart Association recommends eating a dietary pattern that emphasizes:

fruits, vegetables,

whole grains,

low-fat dairy products,

poultry, fish and nuts,

limiting red meat, sugary foods and beverages intakes.

In conclusion, about 150 minutes of physical activity weekly will help to prevent heart disease, and an hour daily for a weight loss  program, depending on individual needs. Walking, cycling, dancing or swimming — activities that use larger muscles at low resistance — are good aerobic exercises.

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