The connection to heart disease and menopauseWe always talk about all of the symptoms during peri/menopause like hot flashes, brain fog, and anxiety (to name a few). But have you ever considered how your menopause experience can affect your cardiovascular health?
What is heart disease?
The CDC states that the most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack. For women in midlife, the drop in estrogen during menopause can affect blood pressure, as well.
Although heart disease is a health concern that can affect all women after menopause, we want to highlight the higher risk it has to affect black women during this time in life. In 2018, a study found that African-American women were 30% more likely to die from heart disease than Non-Hispanic Whites. It has also been found that the risk for heart failure is higher for women with early menopause. Research in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) shows that black women reach menopause at 49, two years earlier than the national median age.
Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined. While there are risk factors that you can’t control, the amazing thing is that in most cases, heart disease is preventable if you pay close attention to the risk factors you can control.
Let’s break down the risk factors for heart disease:Things you can’t control:
- A family history of heart disease may make your risk higher for having heart complications in the future. The UCI Health advises that you should account for your mother, sister, or grandmother if they have had heart issues by age 65. Some questions to consider from the American Heart Association: Did your mother have a stroke? Did your sister have a heart attack? Did any of your grandparents have heart disease?
- At around 55 years old, or after menopause, you should start to get your tests done and talk to your doctor about heart issues. If you have a family history of heart disease, you should start discussing these issues a little earlier. Women whose menopause was triggered by surgery are at a greater risk of heart disease.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight/obese
- Physical inactivity
Here are some steps you can take to ensure that you are in control of what happens to your body.
- Studies have shown that 150 minutes of working out a week aids in dropping the risk of having a heart attack. Walking around 30 minutes a day at a rate where you can’t sing will help keep your heart healthy.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to high blood pressure and weight gain. Both raise the risk of heart disease.
- Make sure to eat a healthy breakfast. Oatmeal with almonds and blueberries is a great choice! The soluble fiber in oatmeal has been shown to help lower LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol. One study found that eating oatmeal instead of eggs and toast for breakfast lowered the chances of stroke.
- Going vegetarian or vegan is great for your heart! A study found that a plant-based diet lowered the risk of dying from heart disease by almost a third!
- Take the time to meditate every day. Studies have shown that meditation can lower the risk of heart disease. Try out one of our meditations in our app today!
- Meet with your dentist frequently. A study found that people with gum disease have higher rates of heart disease than those with healthy gums.
Symptoms to watch out for:
Mayo Clinic shares that women don’t always experience the chest pain that men do when having a heart attack. Here are some heart disease symptoms to be aware of that women usually experience while resting or sleeping:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or upper belly (abdomen) discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
- Heartburn (indigestion)
Things to discuss with your doctor:
Here are the 10 questions that the Association of Black Cardiologists recommends you discuss with your doctor:
- What is my risk for heart disease?
- What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
- What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood and food.) What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
- What are my “body mass index” (BMI) and waist measurement? Do they mean that I need to lose weight for my health?
- What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I’m at risk for diabetes? If so, what do I need to do about it?
- What other screening tests for heart disease do I need?
- What can you do to help me quit smoking?
- How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
- What’s a heart-healthy eating plan for me?
- How can I tell if I may be having a heart attack? If I think I’m having one, what should I do?
Make your life a heart-conscious one.No matter how old you are, it is beneficial to start living a heart-conscious life. Regardless of your background, once you hit 65 your heart will thank you for eating right, exercising, getting proper sleep, and taking care of your mind. We hope the information we shared in this article will help you get started today.