Menopause carries many increased health problems, but the most serious is heart disease as it is linked to a number of other conditions that commonly arise at this time.
The risk does increase significantly at menopause so if you want to stay heart healthy then according to new research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology following these guidelines will help minimise your risk.
Women who adhered to them lowered their heart disease risk by 92 percent. Based on that, researchers estimated that more than 70 percent of heart attacks could be prevented by implementing these simple steps.
1. Get your blood pressure checked
If you have any family history of heart disease, particularly if you’re over 40, ask your GP about having a health check to assess your risk.
An increase in blood pressure to a higher level can increases your risk of heart disease, particularly if you are also overweight.
2. Stop smoking
Stopping smoking will lessen your chances of developing heart disease as you are twice as likely to have a heart attack if you smoke. If you need encouragement to give up, then there is plenty of help available and statistics suggest that women have not stopped smoking at the same rate as as men have.
3. Increase how much exercise you do
There are many ways to keep fit, but to protect your heart you need to do at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. It can be dancing, cycling or fast walking but must be a consistent amount every week. Only about one in four women in England does enough physical activity to protect her heart and if you are sitting for long periods then that too will increase your risk.
4. Lose weight if you need to
Menopause is unfortunately a time when most women do put on weight, and the current figures suggest that about six in every ten women in England are either overweight or obese. This puts a strain on your heart, and you’re more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which also increase the risk of heart disease.
5. Are you a pear or an apple?
It’s not an idle question as many women in the 40-60 age group are apple shaped, where excess weight settles around your waist. This puts you at higher risk of heart disease than being pear shaped, where excess weight is concentrated on the hips. Get the tape measure out and aim for a healthy waistline of less than 80cm (31.5 inches).
6. Drink moderately
A glass of red wine a day is recommended for heart health, but that refers to a ‘little’ amount. Heart healthy drinking for women is one or two units of alcohol a day and any more than this increases your risk of heart disease. Too much alcohol, or binge-drinking, can damage the heart muscle leading to abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure.
7. Have a balanced diet
Keep it natural, and simple, and your body will thank you. Eat at least one-third of your food uncooked (raw), increase fresh vegetables and incorporate naturally fermented foods into your diet, such as cultured vegetables and dairy, which help build healthy gut flora. Two danger ingredients for increased risk of heart disease are salt and saturated fat so keep them within healthy limits and avoid processed foods where possible.
8. Don’t rely on HRT to protect you from heart disease
This advice comes from the NHS UK website as research now suggests that – unlike previous claims – HRT isn’t heart protective and, as with all drug treatments, there are side effects. Bioidentical HRT carries no such risks and has no side effects so if your doctor is taking you off HRT look at the alternatives.
9. Manage your stress
Stress affects so many areas of both your physical and emotional health, but some studies have suggested that stress can contribute to heart disease. There are many simple ways to relax from meditation to yoga or simply talking to a friend or going for a walk.
10. Balance your hormones
At menopause as the hormone balance changes and oestrogen production becomes dominant as progesterone levels fall, then there is an increased risk of heart disease linked to oestrogen dominance. Progesterone is protective of the heart so to lower your risk make sure you have oestrogen dominance under control and good progesterone levels to balance it.