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Ensure a healthy heart after menopause!

As if the transition into menopause wasn’t traumatic enough, you also need to watch your back in terms of heart disease. But it is possible to lower your risk…

Menopause isn’t a ‘friendly’ word for most women. Hot flushes are uncomfortable, and night sweats irritating, and it may feel as if your emotions are being scrambled by someone with a remote control… and then there are the unpleasant changes in the area down south (like dryness!)

Although it isn’t always pleasant, there are many women who experience their menopause years positively. It helps if you are well-informed about what is happening to your body during this time. Besides the common symptoms which you may experience, your risk of osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, thyroid diseases and cancer also increases. And of course, you are also at an increased risk of developing heart disease – the biggest killer of women in their menopause years.

The loss of natural oestrogen when a woman ages can contribute to a heightened risk of this disease after menopause. It has been shown that women younger than 60 who were on Hormone Replacement Therapy were protected from cardiovascular disease (CVD). Another study showed a 30% decline in mortality in those who receive hormones.

Lifestyle modifications are essential when promoting CV health in order to minimise risks… which may lead to your having to say no to that extra piece of fudge or barbequed steak!

The American Heart Association recommended in 2007 that the following lifestyle recommendations be implemented at all risk levels: stop smoking, develop a healthy eating plan, exercise regularly and watch the scale!

Smoking increases your risk of coronary artery disease, so throw that last packet in the bin! Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and oily fish (at least twice a week). Limit your intake of fat, keep your cholesterol intake lower than 300mg/dl and commit to one alcoholic drink and less than one teaspoon of salt a day. Exercise is effective in improving quality of life, and can lower your risk of CVD through helping to maintain your weight. As a woman gets older, fat distribution often changes to abdominal deposits – definitely a contributing factor to cardiovascular mortality rates. It has also been shown that women with a waist circumference larger than 88cm have a higher risk of CVD.

Remember, too, that a bad mood can contribute to depression – another cause of heart disease and death. Ask your gynaecologist and doctor to identify risk factors such as these in order to minimise your risks.

Menopause doesn’t have to be a negative time in your life, especially if you are free from worries about your health. Visit your doctor today to ensure you enjoy this phase of life.

By Jacquie Grassie