So many things change for women once they hit menopause. But do you know about the link between menopause and heart disease? It’s an often-overlooked connection that’s good to be aware of as women age. Let’s take a look at this relationship.
How Women and Men Differ When it Comes to Heart Disease
The average age for a first heart attack among men is 65 years, while for women, it’s 72. Interestingly, women are at a lower risk for CVD until menopause, when their risk grows.
This increase in risk can be tied to a lowering of estrogen levels.
Now that’s not meant to freak you out—it’s just more information for you to have in your arsenal when evaluating your health.
Menopause is the conclusion of the hormonal change that happens to aging women (perimenopause is the ‘transition’). In general, there are a lot of hormone changes in menopausal women, but the one I want to focus on is estrogen. This process is completely normal and it’s not a disease, just a different phase of life.
What Does Estrogen Do When It Comes to Heart Health?
Balanced, healthy levels of estrogen can:
- Help arteries and veins keep their elasticity and prevents them from rapidly breaking down. By keeping these ‘tubes’ open, this will help keep your blood pressure under control.
- Be an antioxidant and protect against damage from high blood sugars, chronic infections (think Lyme, etc.), and other oxidative free radicals.
- Keep your cholesterol in check.
- Help keep your brain mass healthy, and promotes growth of brain tissue. That means it also along keeps your brain neurotransmitters healthy!
On the flip side, low estrogen can cause:
- High cholesterol
- Dementia or worsening memory issues
- Increased abdominal and organ (visceral) fat
- Hot flashes/night sweats
- Increased risk of metabolic syndrome
The symptoms of low estrogen can contribute to worsening of cardiovascular disease risk. That’s why it’s important to keep track of your symptoms and stay in contact with your doctor if you have new or worsening symptoms.
How to Balance Estrogen Levels in the Menopause and Heart Disease Relationship
When it comes to healthy estrogen in menopause, the goal isn’t to push your ovaries to produce more estrogen. We can use natural substances to have phyto-estrogenic properties in them to ‘satisfy’ the thirsty estrogen receptors that are there. Peri-menopausal/menopausal women often will explore hormone replacement therapy to replace the estrogen that is not being made and this type of therapy can also be helpful in preventing (or lowering risk factors) for cardiovascular disease.
That said, what works for one woman’s lifestyle might not be the right treatment plan for another woman. That’s why we aim to support all women’s decisions and look at their life as a whole picture—physical health, mental health, diet, medications, exercise, the whole gamut!—so we can help make a well rounded treatment plan for each woman based on what she needs, helping to pro-actively stop cardiovascular disease in its tracks.
Interested in learning more? Book a new patient appointment to get your personalized health treatment plan started. Or, start by reading our full hormonal series to get a better picture of how your hormones interact with each other.
Dr. Cassie Wilder is a registered Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) and founder of MIMC. Her passion is empowering her patients through education, understanding, and support through their healing journey. After graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Health, Dr. Wilder earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ. During her clinical training, she received extensive hands-on training with many leading experts in the field of functional medicine and developed a passion for treating hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and adrenal fatigue.