Medical experts highlight that the alterations in hormone levels and body composition associated with the shift into menopause may elevate the likelihood of heart disease post-menopause. The American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, offers tips to support women’s heart health during this transition.
“More women in the U.S. are living longer, and a significant portion of them will spend up to 40% of their lives postmenopausal,” said Brooke Aggarwal, Ed.D., M.S., F.A.H.A., assistant professor of medical sciences in Cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center and a volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement.
As women grow and change so does their risk for cardiovascular disease. Go Red for Women, the Association’s premier women’s movement, addresses awareness and clinical care gaps of women’s greatest health threat, and is a trusted source for health and well-being at every age, stage, and season.
“Navigating through menopause isn’t one-size-fits-all, and neither is the journey to good heart health,” she added. “This makes it even more important to focus on heart and brain health at all stages of life.”
The best defense against menopause-related changes is working with your doctor to make sure your key health numbers are in a healthy range, and understanding which healthy habits you can fine-tune to boost your heart health. These tips can help:
- Health by the numbers: Blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index should be monitored yearly. More often if your numbers are out of range. Cholesterol level is also important, and healthy numbers are more individualized based on your other risk factors. Your doctor can help you figure this one out.
- The best way to eat: No single food is a miracle-worker for health. Instead, look at your overall pattern of eating. Experts at the American Heart Association rated 10 popular eating patterns and the DASH-style and Mediterranean-style way of eating rose to the top as having the most heart-healthy elements: high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, healthy fat, and lean protein; and low in salt, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods.
- Exercise that does double-duty: Strength and resistance training is one of the four types of exercise in a general workout routine along with endurance, balance, and flexibility. Strength and resistance have the added benefit of increasing bone strength and muscle mass. As women enter menopause, bone density may take a hit, and body composition tends to shift to lower muscle mass. Strength training at least twice a week can help your bones and muscles maintain strength and density.
- Protect your sleep time: Healthy sleep is part of the 8 essential elements of heart health called Life’s Essential 8, but the transition to menopause comes with myriad interruptions to a good night’s rest – nightly restroom trips, night sweats, insomnia. Do whatever it takes to get your Z’s because better sleep has great health benefits: stronger immune system, better mood, more energy, clearer thinking, and lower risk of chronic diseases. A few habit changes can improve sleep, like setting a notification or alarm to remind you it’s time to wind down, then shutting down electronic devices at that time. For stubborn sleep problems, your doctor may be able to help.
Reference: “Menopause Transition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Implications for Timing of Early Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association” by Samar R. El Khoudary, Brooke Aggarwal, Theresa M. Beckie, Howard N. Hodis, Amber E. Johnson, Robert D. Langer, Marian C. Limacher, JoAnn E. Manson, Marcia L. Stefanick, Matthew A. Allison and On behalf of the American Heart Association Prevention Science Committee of the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; and Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, 30 November 2020, Circulation.