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Menopause is a time of life that many women dread. It is fraught not only with major changes but also health challenges.
One that we need to pay more attention is the effect menopause has on women’s heart health.
For women who have completed the menopausal journey, usually after age 50, heart disease is the #1 killer.
There are physiological reasons for this that we’ll explain here — as well as advice from the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women™ movement on specific preventive measures you can take now to prevent heart disease from catching up with you later.
Lost estrogen means lost protection
Both men and women face the risk of stiffer arteries with age. But for women, age isn’t the only thing that can stiffen our arteries…
Hormones have been shown to affect several factors that regulate vascular wall elasticity. That’s why high estrogen levels are believed to play a role in why young adult women have a lower risk of heart disease than men in the same age range.
Estrogen is more than a “female hormone.” It keeps blood vessels relaxed and open. As estrogen levels decline, cholesterol may begin to build up on artery walls.
In a nutshell, as the end of a woman’s reproductive years approach, her levels of estrogen decline dramatically, and the greater her risk for cardiovascular disease.
That decline begins slowly. The first phase is perimenopause. This is when women begin experiencing mild fluctuations in estrogen levels. Then, around age 51, most women enter menopause and the typical symptoms increase. And the final stage — postmenopause — is where women will spend their remaining years.
Unfortunately, research has also shown that when a woman goes through early menopause, her odds of heart problems are even higher.
This means that as a woman, taking steps to support your arteries is a must. Supplements that support arterial health include:
- Vitamin K2 – This often neglected vitamin has been shown to help reduce calcium deposits that stiffen arteries.
- Grape seed extract plus pterostilbene – In a clinical trial at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, people who took 100mg of pterostilbene plus grape seed extracts showed measurable improvements in blood pressure and circulation.
- Green tea extract – Catechins found in green tea called have been shown to support against oxidative stress to support heart and blood vessel health. Plus, drinking just two to three cups of coffee and two to three cups of tea per day lowers stroke risk by a full 32 percent.
- Omega-3s – The omega-3s found in fish oil lower the risk for heart attack, coronary artery disease and sudden cardiac death.
Get a head start on your heart health
“More women in the U.S. are living longer, and a significant portion of them will spend up to 40 percent of their lives postmenopausal,” says Dr. Brooke Aggarwal, assistant professor of medical sciences in Cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center.
Dr. Aggarwal is also a volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women™ movement.
The AHA tells women that the best defense against menopause-related heart disease is working with your doctor to make sure your key health numbers like blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass, are in a healthy range.
They also provide these specific tips to guard your heart through menopause and postmenopausal years as well:
- Health by the numbers: Blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index should be monitored yearly. More often if your numbers are out of range. Cholesterol level is also important, and healthy numbers are more individualized based on your other risk factors. Your doctor can help you figure this one out.
- The best way to eat: No single food is a miracle worker for health. Instead, look at your overall pattern of eating. Experts at the American Heart Association rated 10 popular eating patterns and the DASH-style and Mediterranean-style way of eating rose to the top as having the most heart-healthy elements.
- Exercise that does double-duty: Strength and resistance training is one of the four types of exercise in a general workout routine along with endurance, balance and flexibility. Strength training at least twice a week can help your bones and muscles maintain strength and density.
- Protect your sleep time: Healthy sleep is part of the 8 essential elements of heart health called Life’s Essential 8, but the transition to menopause comes with myriad interruptions to a good night’s rest — nightly restroom trips, night sweats, insomnia. In fact, sleep should be taken as seriously as nutrition and exercise. A few habit changes can improve sleep.
Women can start protecting themselves during their pre-menopausal years. But it’s never too late to start protecting your heart.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
What is Menopause? — American Heart Association/Go Red for Women
Menopause and Heart Health Infographic — American Heart Association/Go Red for Women
Have a Grateful Heart — American Heart Association/Go Red for Women
For women, hormones could wreak havoc on arteries — Easy Health Options