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Keeping Your Heart Healthy at Menopause

Did you know that cardiovascular disease (CVD) are the leading cause of death for women age 65 and older and the second leading cause of death among women ages 45 to 64 in the United States and Canada? Cardiovascular disease includes many conditions, such as myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, hypertension, stroke, and valvular heart disease.

Menopause and CVD risk

After menopause, a woman’s risk of CVD increases (especially after age 65), and ultimately more women die of these conditions than men! The role of estrogen in influencing heart disease is controversial and confusing, and research is ongoing to clarify it. However, menopause is an excellent time for you to reappraise your own health in many ways, including your risk of heart disease. It's never too late.

Risk factors for CVD

Major risk factors associated with CVD in women include:

  • Tobacco
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Family history of CVD
It is important to realize that, other than family history, these risk factors are modifiable. You can reduce your risk.

Lifestyle changes

  • Stop smoking and your risk of CVD and cancer will diminish over time. 
  • Improve your diet: include fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, low-fat dairy products, fish, and lean meats and poultry. Plant-based diets are healthy.
  • Reduce your weight  Exercise at least 30 minutes most days.
  • Control your blood pressure, using medication if necessary. 

Screening

Your healthcare provider should do periodic checks of your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, smoking status, and should use available scoring systems to assess your risk. Get checkups, even if you have no symptoms.

Know the symptoms of a heart attack common in women

In women a heart attack often has different signs than in men, which can lead to delays in treatment and a higher death rate. Seek medical care urgently if you have: 

  • Chest pain, pressure, or squeezing
  • Pain in your jaw, arms, back, or neck
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, nausea, and feeling lightheaded
  • Unusual sweating
  • Upper stomach pain


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