Why does the risk increase after the menopause?
If a woman has had her menopause then she has an increased risk of heart disease. In fact the incidence of women having breast cancer which kills them is now only a third of the number of women that die of heart disease. In the United States heart disease is the number one cause of death in women over 40 years old, especially after the menopause.
The reasons for this are varied but it is believed that the loss of natural estrogen as women age is a contributing factor of heart disease after menopause. Other factors that may affect postmenopausal risks of heart disease include changes in the walls of the blood vessels and increased levels of blood fibrinogen, both making it more likely for plaque and blood clots to form.
Although your risk of getting heart disease increases if you are post menopausal there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself. First of all go to the doctor and ask for a health examination including a cholesterol and blood pressure check. You may be encouraged to change your lifestyle or diet if any test result is a little high.
If you are a smoker then stop. Smokers have twice the chance of getting a heart attack compared to a non smoker. As soon as you stop smoking then your chances of having heart disease begin to decrease too.
A study has identified that in England only about 25% of women do enough physical activity to protect their heart. Regular aerobic exercise such as walking and swimming can help to protect your heart. This has to be a moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Fast walking, gentle jogging or cycling all fit the bill! You just have to do it for two and a half hours a week.
Maybe you are a bit overweight, well now is the time to try to lose those additional pounds or kilogrammes. The extra stain put on your heart carrying that excess weight is not healthy. You also increase the likelihood of having high blood pressure and raised levels of cholesterol. Weight and shape are closely related and your shape also matters. If you are apple shaped then the weight is around the waist, this puts extra strain on the heart. Pear shaped women are less likely to have heart disease. Try for a workout that will trim down your waist. Work towards balancing your diet and healthy eating. Ensure that the salt and saturated fats you eat do not exceed the recommended levels.
Moderate amounts of alcohol may be beneficial for you and your heart but if your alcohol intake is higher than the recommended limits then you are likely to be increasing the risk of heart problems. Abnormal heart rhythms can be caused by binge or excessive drinking, this can lead to heart failure.
Learn how to relax, many medical practitioners believe that stress can affect the heart negatively. There are many simple ideas and techniques which can calm people down. Your GP can help if your stress levels are very high and you feel unable to cope.
Research has shown that the previously held belief that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) gave protection against heart disease in the older lady is not true. If you need HRT for other symptoms then take it but be aware that your heart is not being protected.