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Support Your Cardiovascular Health Through the Menopause

ESTIMATED READING TIME 5 MINUTES

World Menopause Day

It’s World Menopause Day and this year the focus is on raising awareness of the links between menopause and cardiovascular health. In this article, you’ll learn how your hormones shape your heart health, and what you can do to protect your heart through the menopause and beyond.

What is Cardiovascular Disease?

The term cardiovascular disease is used to describe a wide range of disorders affecting the heart and blood vessels. One such condition is coronary heart disease, a reduction in the blood supply to your heart caused by a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels bringing blood to your heart. Also included are peripheral artery disease, a blockage in the arteries carrying blood to your limbs, along with strokes. Finally, there’s congestive heart failure. 

Sadly, the risk of cardiovascular health issues rises steeply once a woman hits menopause. In fact, data from the British Heart Foundation finds women are twice as likely to die of a heart attack post-menopause than of breast cancer. This risk seems to increase if a woman enters menopause before the age of 45. The same applies if her ovaries are removed for surgical reasons, meaning her levels of sex hormones plummet.

Your Heart and Your Hormones

The risk of cardiovascular diseases increases post-menopause because once a woman stops having monthly periods, her levels of her sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone naturally fall. 

Oestrogen is believed to protect the heart by keeping its tissues healthy. It also helps regulate cholesterol levels by balancing the different forms of cholesterol. Oestrogen seems to play a role in keeping your artery walls healthy, too, therefore preventing cholesterol from accumulating and narrowing their diameter. Finally, it helps arteries to remain dilated, so regulating blood pressure 1

Progesterone, too, has been found to have numerous heart-healthy actions. It protects the lining of blood vessels and encourages arteries to remain dilated, thus reducing blood pressure 2. Through menopause, arteries tend to become less flexible, raising the risk of high blood pressure.

If you are having disturbed sleep because of night sweats, this adds in another risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Poor quality sleep causes blood sugar imbalances and increases blood pressure.

Insulin Resistance and Belly Fat

The hormonal changes at menopause and perimenopause, particularly reductions in oestrogen, can lead to your body’s cells becoming less sensitive, or resistant, to insulin. This means cells don’t receive the energy they need. At the same time, your blood sugar will rise and you’ll tend to put on weight. Insulin resistance when combined with obesity and unbalanced blood fats contributes to a condition known as metabolic syndrome. This increases the risk of cardiovascular health issues. 

Alongside this, at menopause, many women notice the fat distribution in their body changes, with more fat being deposited around the tummy. This is encouraged by the fall in oestrogen at this time. This belly fat, sitting around your abdominal organs, behaves differently to the type of fat sitting under your skin. It sends out messenger substances increasing inflammation around your body. Having deposits of this type of fat is positively connected with cardiovascular disease. 

Although belly fat can be stubborn, it can be managed with a combination of approaches. Targeted exercise including HIIT, hormone balancing, reducing processed carbohydrates and sweetened drinks, and improving your body’s regulation of blood glucose can all help shift this type of fat.

Natural Support for a Healthy Heart

Heart-healthy nutrients include co-enzyme Q10, needed by your heart muscle to produce energy, and magnesium to manage blood pressure. Also useful is vitamin C to keep artery wall linings healthy and smooth.

Balanced oestrogen levels depend on good gut health because the bacteria found in your gut play a key role in how your body processes oestrogen. Disordered gut bacteria have been found in studies to be linked with a reduction in the quantity of oestrogens circulating in the blood, along with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease 3.

Your practitioner may measure your levels of oestrogen and progesterone to discover whether your body is producing enough for your needs and can use it effectively. If your oestrogen levels are low, you may be advised to consume herbs and nutrients containing natural gentle oestrogens, like red clover, tempeh, flax seeds and lentils. If progesterone is low, on the other hand, the key is often stress management. This is because ongoing stress very effectively steals progesterone from your body.

Whatever your situation, your treatment plan will be personalised to you and what’s occurring in your body. Nutritional, herbal and lifestyle strategies will be explored, alongside natural hormones if they are felt to be appropriate for you.

Start your journey to a healthier heart post-menopause today.

References

Did you know you can request a FREE 15 minute Discovery Call

Do you need personalised natural support for your Heart Health during menopause? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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