The Connection: Menopause and Heart Health

Published on 11 April 2024 at 12:36

Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycles. During menopause, hormonal changes, particularly a decrease in oestrogen levels, can have various effects on a woman's body, including your cardiovascular health. Here's what you need to know about menopause and heart health:

Increased Risk of Heart Disease: After menopause, women are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. Oestrogen plays a protective role in cardiovascular health by helping to maintain healthy blood vessel function and cholesterol levels. As oestrogen levels decline during menopause, women may experience changes in their lipid profile, including an increase in LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and a decrease in HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol), which can contribute to a higher risk of heart disease. 

Changes in Blood Pressure: Menopause can also lead to changes in blood pressure. Some women may experience an increase in blood pressure during menopause, which can further contribute to the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. It's essential for women to monitor their blood pressure regularly and make lifestyle changes to help manage it effectively.

Increased Risk of Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess abdominal fat, that can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The hormonal changes associated with menopause, along with aging and lifestyle factors, can increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome in women.

Importance of Lifestyle Factors: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial for heart health during and after menopause. This includes eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, exercising regularly, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. These lifestyle factors can help reduce the risk of heart disease and support overall well-being during menopause.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Some women may consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage menopausal symptoms and potentially reduce the risk of heart disease. However, the use of HRT for cardiovascular protection remains controversial, and you should discuss the potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.


The transition through menopause can have significant effects on heart health. Let's explore how menopause impacts cardiovascular risk and ways to stay healthy during this stage of life. 

Increased Cardiovascular Risk:

  • Oestrogen Decline: During menopause, your ovaries produce less oestrogen. Oestrogen has a protective effect on the heart by controlling cholesterol levels, reducing fat build-up in arteries, and maintaining healthy blood vessels.
  • Symptoms and Changes: Menopause-related changes, such as weight gain, high cholesterol, impaired glucose control, and increased blood pressure, contribute to cardiovascular risk.
  •  Perimenopause: Symptoms may begin during the perimenopause phase even before periods stop.


Ways to Reduce Risk and Stay Healthy:

  •  Bone Health: Include calcium-rich foods (e.g., milk, yoghurt, kale) and vitamin D (10 micrograms/day) to maintain bone density.
    Engage in weight-bearing exercises to strengthen bones.
    Consider HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to protect bones and reduce osteoporosis risk.
  • Physical Activity:
    - Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly (e.g., walking, swimming, cycling).
    - Alternatively, try 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity (e.g., aerobics, tennis).
    - Include strength training exercises twice a week.
  • Weight Management:
    - Combat weight gain by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and being physically active.
    - Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Sexual Health:
    - Recognise that pregnancy is no longer a concern, but STI risk remains.
    - Practice safe sex in new relationships to prevent STIs.
  • Mood and Anxiety:
    - Prioritize rest, regular exercise, and relaxing activities.
    - Consider cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for mood management and better sleep.
  • Hot Flushes and Night Sweats:
    - Wear light clothing and keep your bedroom cool.
    - Reduce stress and avoid triggers like spicy food, caffeine, and alcohol.
    - Regular exercise and weight loss can help manage hot flushes.
  • Vaginal Dryness:
    - Use vaginal moisturisers or lubricants (available without a prescription).
    - Avoid oil-based lubricants if using condoms.
    - Consult a doctor for other treatments (e.g., HRT).
    Remember, staying informed and proactive about heart health during menopause is essential.

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