Elevated cardiac Risk after Menopause
Heart diseases are very common throughout the world and are regarded as the number one killer according to statistics of World Health Organization. Heart diseases are more likely to manifest in males before the age of 50 years; however in the case of females, the risk of heart disease is almost the same as males, after the woman cross 50 years. Most researches attribute this peculiarity to the cardio-protective effects of Estrogen hormone in females before 50 years of age. The average age for menopause is 45 to 55 years in most parts of the world and it is seen that women start manifesting higher incidence of heart disease closer to their meno pausal age and afterwards.
Menopause and its effects:
Reproductive growth of women begins before birth and commence at a higher rate after puberty. Throughout life of a woman, female hormones maintain different functions in the maintenance of health and development. For example:
- Estrogen balance is responsible for normal monthly cycles and it is also responsible for maintenance and progression of pregnancy.
- Estrogen which is the main female hormones affects the level of different types of cholesterol. The direct effect of estrogen is in helping increase the levels of High Density Lipoproteins (HDL). A higher level of HDL is good for heart health. Thus estrogen provides the cardi-protective effect in women.
- Moreover, estrogen also decreases Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) levels. LDL is considered as the bad cholesterol. So estrogen also helps reduce bad cholesterol thus providing the cardi-protective effect in women.
After menopause, estrogen levels decline greatly and thus a peak in heart diseases is seen in women.
Due to depressed estrogen levels, other effects are also seen, like:
- Mood changes, depression, anxiety disorders and other minor psychiatric issues.
- Flushing of face, bloating and other minor complaints.
- Increased facial hair growth.
- Weakening of bones and recurrent fractures.
What can be done to minimize cardiac risk after menopause?
After menopause, importance of a healthy lifestyle in maintenance of health increases even more. Advancing age is itself a threat to a variety of health issues especially that pertains to heart. For this purpose, regular exercise must be adopted.
Diet must contain more portions of vegetables, fish and fruits than red meat which is rich in LDL. Moreover, use of cholesterol rich egg yolks, animal fat and oils must also be minimized.
Risk of cardiac disease after menopause is elevated in diabetic women or the females who have a positive history of hypertension or high blood cholesterol levels. In all such at-risk women, it is very important to maintain blood sugar levels, blood levels and electrolytes (salts like sodium and potassium) and blood pressure to avoid heart diseases.
It is a topic of debate as to whether hormonal replacement must be started after menopause or not. Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen has certain unintended side effects including the risk of certain types of cancers. Hence doctors use it with care after a thorough analysis of all health factors, risks and tolerance of the person to hormone replacement therapy. It is also well known that post menopausal women face higher risk of osteoporosis. In such cases, calcium supplements are considered enough to alleviate the risk; however for cardiac risk hormone replacement therapy can be started with progesterone as supplement and regular screening for cervical and uterine cancers.