Staying Heart-Healthy in Menopause
February is American Heart Month
FOR ANTIGO TIMES
Everyone faces an increased risk for heart disease as they get older, but the increase is sharper for women after menopause, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). That’s why it’s vital that women put extra importance on their heart health as they approach middle age.
“Menopause itself doesn’t cause heart disease, but the changes occurring during that time can put a woman at higher risk,” says Colleen Lane, MD, Aspirus Interventional Cardiologist.
According to the AHA, women at midlife may experience a decline in estrogen levels, sleep problems, increased cholesterol levels, hot flashes and night sweats, increased body fat around the organs, depression, and stiffening or weakening of the blood vessels. All these factors can contribute to the development of heart disease and increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.
“It’s important that women start taking care of their heart health as early as possible to reduce their risk for heart disease and enjoy a longer, healthier life,” says Dr. Lane.
How you can lower your risk
No matter your age, you can take care of your heart by following healthy habits. These healthy habits include:
- Getting screened. Women should continue to have regular checkups with their health care professional, and regular heart health screenings are important to maintaining a healthy heart.
The AHA recommends getting your :
- Cholesterol checked every five years
- Blood pressure checked at least every two years
- Blood glucose levels checked every three years
- Waist circumference checked as needed
- Body mass index checked during every regular health care visit
- Not smoking. Smoking contributes to lower HDL levels and increases the risk for blood clots associated with heart disease.
- Following a diet high in nutrient-rich foods. That means eating meals that feature plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. Healthier eating translates into efficient heart function and overall well-being.
- Getting regular physical activity. Women should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week to help lower their risk of heart disease.
- Focus on your mental well-being. Depression is linked to almost double the risk of stroke in middle-aged women. If you’ve been feeling down, depressed or hopeless, or have lost interest or pleasure in things you do, talk to your health care provider right away.
Dr. Lane also suggests finding healthy ways to manage stress, saying it “can increase blood pressure and even lower HDL, or ‘good,’ cholesterol levels.” The AHA recommends practicing relaxation techniques, finding a hobby, spending time with friends and family, and getting enough sleep.
- Taking meds, if needed. Take cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins, if prescribed by your doctor.
Talk to your health care provider about your risk factors and how to prevent heart before, during and after menopause.