Menopause and Heart Disease—A Potentially Dangerous Combination
February 1, 2018
October 26, 2015
Has your heart ever started to pound suddenly, scaring you out of your wits because there seems to be no way to slow it down? Bouts of rapid heartbeat are a common complaint associated with menopause and perhaps one of the least expected.
Heart disease and menopause, however, are connected. That’s because menopause brings the loss of estrogen, which is believed to have protective effects on the heart and cardiovascular system.
The Numbers Tell the Story
As a result, once you reach natural menopause, your risk of heart disease increases substantially. The numbers tell the story. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 40, and after age 50, nearly half of all deaths in women are from of cardiovascular disease. That's more than deaths from all cancers combined.
How Can the Loss of Estrogen Affect Your Cardiovascular Risk?
- It makes it more likely for plaque and blood clots to form in the blood vessels by changing the walls of the blood vessels.
- It increases “bad” cholesterol and decreases “good” cholesterol.
- It increases levels of fibrinogen, another factor in the formation of blood clots.
Reducing Your Risk
Developing heart disease in your menopausal years is not a foregone conclusion if you follow a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of the things you can do to help prevent heart disease.
- Tell your doctor about any irregular heartbeat. Although a rapid heartbeat is often a symptom of menopause, it’s best to let your doctor know so serious causes of rapid heartbeat can be ruled out.
- Avoid smoking or quit if you smoke. Smokers have twice the risk of heart attack as nonsmokers—and stay away from secondhand smoke, which also increases the risk of heart disease.
- Watch your weight. Being overweight contributes to heart disease because your heart has to work harder to supply your body with nutrients.
- Exercise. Like other muscles, your heart needs exercise to stay strong. You should get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Exercise also has other benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Follow a healthy diet. Eat a diet high in fiber, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish, and keep your consumption of saturated and trans fats low.
- Control any medical conditions. Several conditions can raise your risk of heart disease. If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, follow the treatment prescribed by your doctor.
- Consider a daily aspirin. If your doctor approves, take an aspirin a day. Your doctor will recommend a dose appropriate for you.
Learn your risk for heart disease by taking a Heart Risk Assessment.
Gurpinder K. Chatha, MD
Gurpinder K. Chatha, MD, is a cardiologist with The Heart Group of Lancaster General Health. An expert in the latest non-invasive cardiovascular diagnostic technologies, Dr. Chatha is committed to combining technological advances with outstanding patient care.
Education: Dr. Chatha earned her medical degree from Government Medical College in Patiala India, and completed a fellowship in cardiovascular disease at Loyola University Medical Center.