Menopause and Heart Disease Risk

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Did you know that the hormonal changes associated with perimenopause and menopause can affect your heart health?

At a recent visit with my gynecologist, I learned a great deal about how heart health is adversely affected by declining estrogen during the menopause transition. There are many myths and misunderstandings about the role of estrogen therapy as it relates to heart health after menopause.

Midlife women, as well as their healthcare providers, are still confused about the results of the Women’s Health Initiative, a study from the 1990s that concluded that hormone therapy is inherently dangerous. It’s important to know the facts. Dr. Allmen’s well-written, detailed, easy to understand book, Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving Through Midlife, explains, among many other things, the latest information about how estrogen and hormone therapy relate to heart health. Here are a few of her key points:

  • “Estrogen inhibits the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), increases good HDL cholesterol, lowers bad LDL cholesterol, keeps blood sugar levels under control, relaxes blood vessels, and helps maintain normal arterial blood flow.” *
  • “There have been plenty of scientific studies that have demonstrated estrogen therapy’s protective role in heart health.”
  • “If you are a healthy woman, less than sixty years old or within ten years of your last menstrual period, and you decide to start hormone therapy for the treatment of your menopausal symptoms, you will also enjoy the benefits of improved heart health and a decrease in your total mortality risk.”

* Dr. Allmen goes on to explain that estrogen therapy also carries risks: “Simultaneously, however, estrogen therapy can also harm the heart, because it can increase triglycerides, which contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. Estrogen therapy also promotes clotting and inflammation inside blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, deep venous thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism.”

There are both pros and cons to hormone replacement therapy, which is why it’s critical to discuss your unique personal situation with your gynecologist (I am not a doctor and do not ever provide medical advice.)

Please note that I am NOT suggesting that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is right for everyone, and it is NOT indicated for the purpose of reducing heart disease risk. However, there are many reasons why women should consider HRT and it’s vital to discuss your particular situation with your doctor.

Learn more by reading Menopause Confidential or checking out the North American Menopause Society’s website, Menopause.org.

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