The American Heart Association has said that a decline in estrogen due to the onset of menopause may contribute to the presence of heart disease. Entitled, “Menopause and Heart Disease,” published in 2015 and updated just a couple of months ago, the article discusses how about ten years after the onset of menopause the risk of heart attacks really increases for women. Although menopause is not a disease and is not the cause of heart problems, the heart-protective benefits of estrogen disappear when the hormone begins to decrease. (1)
Estrogen is believed to support the inner layer of the artery wall by keeping blood vessels flexible and relaxed, thus allowing blood to flow easily. In addition, estrogen helps keep blood pressure and triglycerides low and keeps LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in check. When women begin to enter menopause these levels tend to creep up and may contribute to a higher risk of developing heart disease. (1)
I take women’s health very seriously and want my patients to live long, healthy lives. Based on the articles I’ve read from different countries around the world, I believe that estrogen use benefits women and I will continue to prescribe it appropriately. But estrogen alone will not prevent heart disease. The best thing you can do to is make good lifestyle decisions– and diet is usually the easiest place to start. Doctors and nutritionists will argue over what type of diet is the most heart healthy (some say avoid fat, others say avoid sugar, others say high fat is better) but they all seem to agree that foods closest to their natural state is best. Choose whole fruits and vegetables, avoid anything processed, and make sure you find a physical activity you enjoy. It could be gardening, swimming, walking, or even a group class. And we all agree, quit smoking– the sooner the better.
(1)American Heart Association. “Menopause and Heart Disease.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Menopause-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_448432_Article.jsp#.WX-JUIjyuM8 Updated June 23, 2017