What is a woman’s biggest health fear? I would say breast cancer. And understandable because one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with the disease. Scary. What we need to remember, however, is that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Before menopause, our risk is less because of higher estrogen levels. Then by age 55, estrogen levels drop, causing our risk of heart disease to be that equivalent to men.
Estrogen has been shown in multiple studies to be beneficial to concentrations of fat in the blood. Levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) decrease when estrogen is present, while levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) increase. So the lack of estrogen can contribute to heart disease.
Recent evidence suggests that women with healthy hearts who are in early menopause may be candidates for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If the decision is made to use HRT to prevent heart disease the key to success is using bio-identical hormones. Using synthetic estrogen and progesterone is contraindicated. The reason being is that synthetic progestins can cause constriction of arteries and a decrease in HDL. By contrast, natural progesterone expands arteries and cause little or no reduction in HDL.
To LOVE your heart:
*Natural hormones (estriol, a type of estrogen) and progesterone have protective effects on the heart.
*Hormone Therapy does not increase heart disease for healthy women who have recently experienced menopause.
*Women should have their cholesterol levels checked every year beginning at age 45 unless risk factors are determined. With childhood obesity on the rise in the United States, children are having their cholesterol levels checked now and rightly so.
* While further studies are needed on HRT and the heart, the best “prescription” for heart health in menopausal women (women of any age!) is: eating right, getting enough exercise, no smoking, and managing stress.