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What Does Menopause Have to Do With Heart Disease?

By HERWriter
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What Is the Link Between Menopause and Heart Disease? Gianfranco Bella/Fotolia

Women expect after their middle years to go through menopause. It is the natural course of our lives. However, did you know that going through menopause increases your risk of heart disease?

Heart disease is one of the top killers for women. According to the American Heart Association, one in three deaths among women are caused by heart disease each year.

Estrogen levels

After menopause, estrogen levels drop tremendously. It is thought that the drop in estrogen contributes to this increased risk as it affects our blood vessels and our metabolism.

The American Heart Association does not however, recommend that women take estrogen to lower the risk of heart disease.

Blood pressure

Lower estrogen contributes to less elasticity in your blood vessels, leading to higher blood pressure. High blood pressure puts more strain on your heart.

Cholesterol and fat

Lack of estrogen affects the metabolism of cholesterol and fat, causing increases in their levels. HDL (good cholesterol) levels can drop and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels can rise.


Women who go through menopause become more resistant to the action of insulin, causing elevated blood sugar and increased risk of diabetes.


Estrogen levels affect where women store their fat and how well fat is used for energy. Unfortunately, as estrogen levels drop, it may cause women to redistribute their body fat to the belly from their thighs, hips and buttocks.

Excess fat that deposits down deeper in the body is thought to contribute to increased inflammation, making women more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to WebMD.

In fact the period before menopause is when these factors can have more of an effect, particularly for African American women.

A recent study published in the American Heart Association journal monitored 1,470 women over 12 years.

It showed that the five risk factors that are considered part of metabolic syndrome may have more of an effect than previously found. The five risk factors are increased waist weight, elevated fat and cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels that develop before menopause.

Mark DeBoer, M.D., MSc., M.C.C., is the study senior author and an association professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Based on the researchers' findings, he had some recommendations.

DeBoer stressed that it's essential for women around the time of menopause to alter their lifestyles. That will reduce their risk for experiencing metabolic syndrome effects, Health Newsline reported.

The researchers said that if women worked hard to maintain a healthy weight, monitored their cholesterol and blood pressure levels that these behaviors might help offset the risk to their heart health.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s health care and quality of care issues.

Edited by Jody Smith

Read more in Your Guide for Menopause & Hot Flash Treatment Options

Heart disease, stroke risk factors may increase in severity before menopause. American Heart Association. Retrieved September 4, 2016.

Menopause and Heart Disease. American Heart Association. Go Red For Women. Retrieved September 4, 2016.

8 Signs Your Heart Is Changing During Menopause. Everyday Health.com. Retrieved September 4, 2016.

Oh, Do You Know the Muffin Top? WebMD.Retrieved September 4, 2016.

Xiao-Ping Yang and Jane F. Reckelhoff. Estrogen, hormonal replacement therapy and cardiovascular disease. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2011 Mar; 20(2): 133–138.

Diabetes, Heart Disease Risk Factors Spike Before Menopause – Study. Retrieved September 4, 2016. HealthNewsline.net.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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