Fit For Menopause: Lets Get to the Heart of the Matter

Menopause and Cardiovascular Health

Let’s Get to the Heart of the Matter!

When we think about menopause, cardiovascular health isn't usually the first thing that comes to find - but perhaps it should be. 

We often hear about hot flashes and night sweats. We may hear about bone health, brain fog, and urinary and vaginal changes. There may even be whispers of mood changes, aches and pains, or vision or hearing declines. But heart health? It’s not getting the attention it deserves.  

If I asked you what is the number 1 cause of death of adult women, what would you say? Breast Cancer? In fact, Heart Disease is the leading killer of women worldwide. Between 33%-50% of women die from a cardiovascular event.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can do something about it.

October 18th is World Menopause Awareness Day.
This year the theme is Cardiovascular Disease.

You may be convinced that cardiovascular health is important, but what does menopause have to do with it?

One of the biggest changes in the menopause transition–and your life after menopause–is decreased estrogen. Estrogen is CARDIO PROTECTIVE.

Estrogen can:

  • Decrease LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
  • Increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
  • Relax, smooth and dilate blood vessels so blood flow increases
  • Soak up free radicals that can damage arteries and other tissues
  • Support metabolic health through insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management

When estrogen declines, there is elevated risk of LDL increasing, HDL decreasing, and plaque building up in the arteries. Insulin resistance may also develop. Post menopause, we also see an increased risk of arterial spasms and stiffening of the arteries–and this is a major predictor of heart attack in women. 

Women present differently from men when it comes to heart attack symptoms. The signs can be subtle and sometimes confusing.

Women tend to experience:

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of their chest
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  4. Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness
  5. Breathless going up a flight of stairs
  6. Gassiness
  7. Insomnia

So what can we do about this?
How can Perimenopausal and Post-menopausal women protect their cardiovascular health?

Lifestyle interventions and medical management can help.

Aerobic Activity:  

Aim to accumulate 150 min of moderate aerobic physical activity each week. Five 30 min walks per week is one option to meet that goal. If you can’t meet that goal yet, there is evidence that just three 30 min walks per week can improve your cardiovascular health, decrease severe hot flashes by 28%, decrease feelings of sadness and depression, and prevent weight gain/obesity.

Strength Training:

Aim for 2 sessions per week of resistance training exercises. If you can’t manage two times a week, there is evidence that even just 1 session per week of 8 exercises, 2 sets, 8-12 reps is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. This is independent of the effects of adding moderate aerobic activity. We also have evidence that resistance training can decrease moderate to severe hot flashes/night sweats by 44%.

Trunk Flexibility Exercises:

Poor trunk flexibility is associated with arterial stiffening. Adding several sessions per week of stretching or yoga may improve the health of your arteries, in addition to supporting your spine health, posture, breathing, and pelvic health.

Breathing and Meditation:

Daily breathing and meditation practices can decrease blood pressure and decrease hot flashes/night sweats.

Miditerranean Diet:

The evidence is conclusive that following a Mediterranean diet can boost glucose metabolism, reduce insulin resistance, decrease body fat, decrease hot flashes/night sweats–and decrease the risk of breast cancer!

Hormone Replacement Therapy:

Talk to your doctor to see if hormone replacement therapy is right for you.

Would you like to learn more? 

Join Pelvic Health Physiotherapist Wendy Hancock & Physiotherapist Miriam Mulkewich on October 19th @ 7 p.m. for their FREE webinar
Fit For Menopause: Let's Get to the Heart of the Matter. 

Reserve your spot HERE.