World Menopause Day – 18th October

World Menopause DayHappy World Menopause Day!

The theme for this year’s World Menopause Day is cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

We may find yourselves asking what the menopause has to do with cardiovascular disease. It is important for us to understand that the changing hormone levels have an impact on our future health.

During menopause, our ovaries stop producing eggs and cause the hormone levels in our bodies to change. The levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone go down.

Oestrogen has a protective effect on our heart. It helps to control our cholesterol levels and helps keep our blood vessels healthy.

When our oestrogen levels fall, then fat can build up in our arteries causing them to become narrower. This increases our risk of developing coronary heart disease, a heart attack or stroke.

Alongside this the menopause can also cause changes in our bodies that increase our risk of coronary heart disease.

These include;

  • Weight gain which is often experienced by women in the menopause especially around their waist.
  • High cholesterol – after the menopause, our cholesterol levels can go up, increasing our risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Our bodies cannot control sugar levels (glucose) as well – this can increase our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain (metabolic syndrome).
  • Our blood pressure may increase as we get older or go through the menopause.
  • The amount of fat around the heart can increase after the menopause.

What can we do to reduce our risk and improve symptoms?

There are things we can do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease before, during and after the menopause.

One of the most important things we can do is to consider how we can make healthier lifestyle choices, as these will help lower or maintain our blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These healthy lifestyle choices can also help our menopause symptoms.

Small changes can make a big difference, the following are some tips for a healthy heart.

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet, include plenty of nutrient rich food including vegetables, fruit and oily fish.
  • Exercise regularly: European guidelines recommend at least 150mins per week of endurance exercise (brisk walking), or 10,000 steps per day. It is also important to include strength or resistance type exercise.  This is the most effective method for increasing muscle mass and metabolic rate.
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink and ensure your intake is less than 14 units/week
  • Quit smoking

Is HRT a benefit or a risk to our hearts?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help treat symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and low mood.

There is evidence that HRT can reduce our risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. This is because it replaces oestrogen in our bodies, which can help to protect our heart. Evidence shows that HRT should be started within 10 years of starting the menopause and before the age of 60. The earlier HRT is started, the more effective it is at protecting our hearts and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.   People worry about taking HRT because of the risk of developing other conditions. The risks are usually outweighed by the benefits, but it’s important to decide what is right for you.

You can find out more about our Menopause Clinics by clicking here