Menopausal changes increase heart disease risk
A woman’s risk of heart disease intensifies drastically around the time of menopause, which for most women is around 50 years, research says.
Experts explain that understanding risk factors is an important first step, and reassure women that there are ways to lower the 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,” said Vera Rigolin, associate director of the Centre for Women’s Cardiovascular Health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“After menopause, however, the levels of estrogen in a woman’s body drop significantly and can contribute to the higher risks of cardiovascular disease,” explains Rigolin.
Weight gain is also a factor that may play a role in post-menopausal risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight often becomes difficult after the 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.
“In some women, plaque can build in the smallest blood vessels. These blockages do not show up in an angiogram,” says Rigolin.
Women, especially those who are menopausal, can reduce the risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle, says a Northwestern Memorial release.
“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.
She also recommends visiting a health care provider at least once per year to have blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked.
ANI, Feb 24, 2010, 02.46pm IST
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