Changes during menopause increases risk of heart disease and stroke

Feb 23, 2010

When women hear the word menopause, they often think about hot flashes, hormone shifts and mood swings. But what about heart disease? Studies show a woman's risk of heart disease intensifies drastically around the time of natural menopause, which for most women is around the age of 50. This news may come as a surprise, but experts explain that understanding risk factors is an important first step, and reassure women that there are ways to lower your risk.

"Many women younger than 50 have not yet gone through menopause and still have high levels of the female hormone estrogen in their blood, which is thought to help protect the heart. After , however, the levels of estrogen in a woman's body drop significantly and can contribute to the higher risks of cardiovascular disease," explains Vera Rigolin,MD, associate director of the Center for Women's Cardiovascular Health in the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Weight gain is also a factor that may play a role in postmenopausal risk of . Maintaining a healthy weight often becomes difficult after your body experiences a change in hormone levels. Extra mass can take a toll on the body causing physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, all risk factors that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Detecting heart disease in women can be difficult. Many women are unaware that symptoms of the disease may differ from those of men. Although women often experience chest discomfort when presenting with a heart attack, they commonly have other, more subtle symptoms, including fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, jaw pain and general discomfort in the chest and abdominal area.

"In some women, plaque can build in the smallest blood vessels called the microvascular circulation. These blockages do not show up in an angiogram," says Rigolin. "In these cases, we often use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with medication to visualize blood flow within the small blood vessels when other standard tests do not provide us answers."

, especially those who are menopausal can reduce the risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

"If you are a smoker, quit immediately and avoid second hand smoke. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercise at least three times per week to maintain a healthy body weight," says Rigolin.

Rigolin also recommends visiting your health care provider at least once per year to have your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels checked.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Contraceptive use may be safe, but information gaps remain

Jan 14, 2009

Introduced in the 1960s, oral contraceptives have been used by about 80 percent of women in the United States at some point in their lives. For women without pre-existing risks for heart disease, the early formulations were ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

6 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.