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Why is it important to look after your heart health in menopause?
Whilst you may feel ‘Young at Heart’, NHS Choices say that the risk of heart disease rises for everyone as they age, but especially for us women as we hit menopause.
Be assured that going through menopause alone does not cause heart disease. However, add to menopause: a high-fat diet, smoking, lack of exercise and other unhealthy habits that have stayed with us from our younger years, and the risks increase.
Now, more than ever, we need to take stock of our health. Falling levels of the hormone oestrogen, previously a protective factor for our heart, may increase our risk of heart disease. It’s been reported that a rise in heart attacks among women is seen around 10 years after menopause, and more than one in three of us has some form of cardiovascular disease.
Menopause can throw a whole box of all-sorts at us. ‘Bad’ cholesterol (LDL) tends to go up, while ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), starts to decline. Also, triglycerides, certain types of blood fat, increase.
Those of you who have followed a healthy lifestyle will be ahead of the menopause game, and continuing to follow this approach could mean your risk of heart disease and stroke is lower. (Although family history can also be a contributing risk to your heart health risk).
It's super easy for women to monitor their own blood pressure via machines in chemists, gyms, GPs surgeries and some workplaces. You can also do this from the comfort of your own kitchen table with portable blood pressure monitors that can be bought online, from as little as £15. The beauty of taking your own blood pressure is that you’re likely to be more relaxed and so, get a more accurate recording. (It’s worth noting that blood pressure levels are higher in the mornings!). Hot Flush love the QardioArm portable blood pressure monitors that give accurate blood pressure readings wherever and whenever. These monitors are a little more expensive but work wirelessly with a free Qardio App that can be integrated with Apple Health.
Knowing your numbers really helps! You're looking to record a blood pressure level of more than 120 over 80 but less than 140 over 85 according to our GP friend, Liz. When levels are creeping towards the upper limit, it's time to take steps to reduce. We can’t say it enough but look at the changes you can make to your lifestyle. It’s time to start a regular exercise regime and to make sure you're eating a healthy and balanced diet, reducing salt and alcohol intake, where necessary. Smoking may increase the risk of blood clots, decrease the flexibility of your arteries and lower ‘good’ cholesterol, so cut it out. These collective lifestyle changes may just be enough to lower your blood pressure, otherwise, medication may be required to do the job. As a new year approaches, make eliminating these risk-increasing habits, top of your resolution list!
It’s not all about cutting things out. If you don’t exercise already, try to build up to doing 150 minutes of physical exercise per week (broken down into five, thirty-minute sessions), to help prevent heart disease. Yoga, walking, cycling, dancing and swimming, are all free and simple ways to get you moving.
If you want to take your health monitoring further, there's also the Qardiobase 2, wireless smart scale and body analyser that tracks weight, BMI, and full body composition including muscle mass, fat%, bone and water composition. We love the fact that when you can't face the numbers, you can see your progress (or not!) through emojis and keep all that info to yourself on the privacy of the App.
Find more information on how you can maintain a healthy heart through menopause and beyond, by checking out our symptoms page Healthy Hearts.