The conversation around menopause is getting louder, but there is still a lot of misinformation. So as October is menopause month and the 18th October is menopause day, we thought we’d discuss this year’s theme, cardiovascular health.
Hormonal changes associated with menopause can have a wide-ranging impact on cardiovascular health – that’s why cardiovascular disease is this year’s theme for World Menopause Day 2023.
What and when are you in menopause? Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period. Post menopause is every day after you reach your final period. The signs and symptoms experienced in perimenopause (this is the time leading up to your final period) may persist for a few years into post menopause.
How can menopause affect cardiovascular health?
Before menopause, women have a lower risk of heart disease than men, but this changes as women age and their oestrogen levels fall. Natural decline in oestrogen levels during menopause can increase cardiovascular risk factors, like high blood pressure. A reduction in oestrogen can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to the accumulation of plaque. This can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.
Diabetes risk: Menopause can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is itself a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Menopause Symptoms you should be aware of:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Depression and sleeping problems
- Increased visceral fat
- Cholesterol levels and metabolic syndrome
- Reduced libido
We ask does menopause increase a woman’s risk of CVD?
Yes, hormonal changes that occur during menopause can bring increased cardiovascular risk in the form of higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Many women ask if it is true that frequent hot flashes could be a sign of heart disease?
Answer: A direct association between hot flashes and heart disease hasn’t been found. However, research suggests that women who have hot flashes may be at a higher risk of having heart problems in the future than women who don’t have them. It would be a good idea for you to talk with your healthcare provider about your hot flashes and assess your risk for heart disease overall.
What are Hot flashes? — sudden feelings of warmth, often over your face, neck, and chest — are a common menopause symptom. The exact cause of hot flashes during the transition into menopause isn’t clear. They seem to be related to changes in reproductive hormones and the way your body responds to slight variations in temperature.
A recent study of women 40 to 60 looked at the connection between hot flashes and vascular health, particularly the health of blood vessels. It found that women who have hot flashes, especially younger women who have them early in the transition into menopause, have arteries that are less likely to relax appropriately during exercise or stress. In other
words, their arteries were stiffer than normal. Specifically, the researchers
focused on flow-mediated dilation — the way an artery widens when blood flow
increases to that artery. In the women who had hot flashes, flow-mediated
dilation did not tend to work properly. That could put those women at risk for
future cardiovascular problems, including heart disease.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be useful in controlling menopausal symptoms (like hot flushes) and helping to prevent osteoporosis, but there is a grey area as
to its cardiovascular benefit.
World menopause month helps to bring awareness to this health challenge. Empowerment during the menopause can contribute to improving the perception of this stage and the importance of self-care.
We conclude that empowering women with knowledge about menopause will guarantee their health during the last third of their life. It will also help them benefit from their final years of reproductive life. It is essential to increase women’s awareness and adaptation to menopause.
If you have any questions about menopause, treatment options or need your blood pressure checked or have any of these symptoms, please book an appointment today with your GP practice