How to stop menopause from breaking your heart

You don’t know how much of a health guardian estrogen is to a woman until you go through menopause. Women already know about the mild symptoms like hot flashes, and the risk for osteoporosis. But losing estrogen also has a nasty effect on women’s arteries – you can develop endothelial dysfunction and high blood pressure.

Although the drug companies’ “hormone replacement therapy” isn’t a safe way to replace estrogen, there’s a natural way to help your cardiovascular system work better as you age.

It’s an incredible cure-all that seems to work to reverse almost any disease or symptom of aging.

Research in Brazil shows that it’s good old fashioned exercise that can keep your heart and blood vessels functioning properly and steer you away from high blood pressure.

The researchers note that menopause increases women’s heart disease risk as your odds of high blood pressure rises. Contributing to blood pressure problems are stiffer arteries and problems with what is called the baroreflex – the system of nerves that tell the arteries to widen and keep blood pressure under control.

Those kinds of changes mean that the endothelium – the tissue that encloses blood vessels – doesn’t play the role it should in keeping blood pressure down. The frightening result: an in increase in your chances of suffering a heart attack and stroke after menopause.

The researchers point out that it has been well-established that when you are an exerciser, you do good things for your endothelium. Getting exercise is easily the best drug-free treatment for the health of arteries.

So scientists set out, with lab tests, to see if exercise could offset some of the bad stuff that happens when menopause shrinks your estrogen supply.

Their experiments show that something as simple as trotting on a treadmill improves artery health and cardiovascular function while lowering blood pressure after menopause. And they also demonstrated that it helps keep muscle tissue bigger and stronger, keeps weight down and helps reduce body fat.

There’s certainly no drug that can produce all of those benefits! Plus, that’s especially good news for older women who often struggle to control their weight.

But that’s what studies on the effects of exercise consistently show. Physical activity may not exactly cure every ill, but it sure is an all-purpose defender against the ills that can ail the aging human body.

I know that for me, as I rapidly approach senior-citizenhood, a daily bout of exercise (jogging, weight-lifting, walking, stair-climbing – whatever appeals to me on a particular day) keeps the signs of aging from approaching quite so rapidly.

I do seem to like stair-climbing the best. It helps me use the little muscles I need for stability and balance, and strengthens my heart and lungs so I have power to spare for real world challenges. All I do is get on a stair machine at the gym – but real stairs are of course great if you can find some rarely used ones – pretend I’m walking to the top of a hill and then I walk back down. And using my imagination also keeps my mind sharp!

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.