Cardiovascular health needs our attention at every stage of life. After all, it is a state of well-being linked to the normal functioning of the heart and blood vessels. In opposition to it, we have cardiovascular diseases such as (1):
- Problems with coronary arteries.
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol.
At the menopausal stage, it is essential to take care of cardiovascular health. This is because certain changes in the body can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (2). And the heart and blood vessels are more susceptible to being affected.
However, this does not mean that there will always be problems. There are some measures that can be implemented, perhaps as personal goals, to reduce the risk. Read on, as we will tell you all about it here.
What menopausal changes affect cardiovascular health?
Some changes that occur during the menopause are better known than others. Many women are aware of changes in the menstrual cycle or intermittent hot flushes (3). However, there are other changes that go more unnoticed. These include changes that may increase the risk of heart disease (2,3):
- Weight gain: in addition to weight in kilograms, this can be seen in waist circumference. According to studies (4), women with a larger waist circumference have a higher cardiovascular risk.
- Increased blood pressure: in menopause, the walls of the arteries become stiffer (5). Blood therefore exerts more pressure as it circulates through the blood vessels. This can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for other diseases (1).
- Changes in blood sugar levels: during menopause, changes in blood glucose levels also occur (6). This can lead to diabetes and thus to an increased risk for cardiovascular health. (7).
Tips for cardiovascular health in the menopause
For menopausal women, simple tips can significantly reduce the risk. Here are the most important ones:
Maintaining a healthy weight is always essential, although during the menopause it becomes more relevant. This is because of the tendency to gain weight. Therefore, your diet should have certain characteristics (8):
- We know that prioritising oily fish and fresh pulses is beneficial.
- On the contrary, too much refined pasta is linked to an earlier onset of risk-increasing factors.
As for nutritional supplements that could be taken, a doctor should always be consulted. Those with omega 3 6 9 may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure (9).
Physical exercise is recommended in menopause (10). Firstly, because it is a way of controlling weight. Secondly, because doing sport at this stage has other benefits. And most of them contribute to cardiovascular health (11):
- Blood pressure is reduced.
- Cholesterol and triglycerides are less likely to rise.
- Sugar in food is metabolised more efficiently.
If we add all these effects together, it is clear that we are reducing the risk of any heart disease. In addition, physical activity reduces anxiety (11).
Living a healthy life is also about taking care of mental health. Therefore, when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease, stress management is a major protective factor in menopause (10). In particular, mindfulness techniques seem to have several positive effects (12,13):
- On the one hand, they help to control symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- On the other hand, they may reduce hot flushing episodes.
The accumulation of stress on a daily basis increases the chances of cardiovascular disease (14). So managing it will allow us to reduce this risk. And if mindfulness is not appropriate, yoga, tai chi or meditation can also be used (10).
Taking care of cardiovascular health is taking care of your general health.
Simple measures in diet, exercise and stress management protect cardiovascular health. They also look after general health during the menopause. In a reciprocal sense, strategies for general health will help us take care of our heart. So we can’t lose sight of this:
- The importance of vaccinations after 40 years of age.
- Strengthening bone health.
- Screening for early detection of cancer.
Medical check-ups at this stage allow the symptoms that appear to be discussed. And your health professional is trained to guide the necessary lifestyle changes (15).
We therefore invite you to put these tips into practice and in this way contribute to maintaining an optimal quality of life during this stage.
- National Health System. Cardiovascular disease [Internet]. 2022. [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cardiovascular-disease/
- Newson L. Menopause and cardiovascular disease. Post Reprod Health. 2018; 24(1):44–9. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053369117749675
- National Health System. Symptoms [Internet]. 2022. [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/symptoms/
- Goh LGH, Dhaliwal SS, Welborn TA, Lee AH, Della PR. Anthropometric measurements of general and central obesity and the prediction of cardiovascular disease risk in women: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2014; 4(2):e004138. Available from: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/2/e004138.short
- British Heart Foundation. Menopause and heart disease [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/women-with-a-heart-condition/menopause-and-heart-disease
- Clayton GL, Soares AG, Kilpi F, Fraser A, Welsh P, Sattar N, et al. Cardiovascular health in the menopause transition: a longitudinal study of up to 3892 women with up to four repeated measures of risk factors. BMC Med. 2022; 20(1):299. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12916-022-02454-6
- Peters SAE, Huxley RR, Woodward M. Diabetes as risk factor for incident coronary heart disease in women compared with men: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 64 cohorts including 858,507 individuals and 28,203 coronary events. Diabetologia. 2014; 57(8):1542–51. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00125-014-3260-6
- Dunneram Y, Greenwood DC, Cade JE. Dietary patterns and age at natural menopause: Evidence from the UK Women’s Cohort Study. Maturitas. 2021; 143:165–70. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33308623/
- Tardivo AP, Nahas-Neto J, Orsatti CL, Dias FB, Poloni PF, Schmitt EB, et al. Effects of omega-3 on metabolic markers in postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome. Climacteric. 2015; 18(2):290–8. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/13697137.2014.981521
- National Health System. Menopause – Things you can do [Internet]. 2022. [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/things-you-can-do/
- Grindler NM, Santoro NF. Menopause and exercise. Menopause. 2015; 22(12):1351–8. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2015/12000/Menopause_and_exercise.15.aspx
- Cambridge University Hospitals. Menopause: A healthy lifestyle guide [Internet]. NHS Foundation Trust; 2021. [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from: https://www.cuh.nhs.uk/patient-information/menopause-a-healthy-lifestyle-guide/
- Wong C, Yip BH-K, Gao T, Lam KYY, Woo DMS, Yip ALK, et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Psychoeducation for the Reduction of Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial. Sci Rep. 2018; 8(1):1–10. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-24945-4
- Cohen BE, Edmondson D, Kronish IM. State of the art review: Depression, stress, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Hypertens. 2015; 28(11):1295–302. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/28/11/1295/2743312
- National Health System. Treatment [Internet]. 2022. [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/treatment/