The years leading up to menopause is a time of increasing risk of heart disease for women. This new information comes from research released by the American Heart Association, which advises maintaining a healthy lifestyle and integrating early intervention strategies for good cardiovascular health.
Published in the journal Circulation, the scientific statement finds an increase in heart disease risk during menopause, which is related with a decrease in the production of the hormone estrogen. Due to this correlation, researchers have been studying if hormone therapy may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in women.
There is some evidence indicating that certain combinations of hormone therapy may have benefits if initiated in early menopause. Further research is needed to evaluate the role of various hormone therapies and how long they may take to impact cardio-metabolic health.
Other studies related to this research have shown solid benefits of hormone therapy, such as a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and protection from bone loss. Current medical professionals endorse the use of hormone therapy for women who have recently begun the menopause transition, with appropriate indications. This includes women who have shown a decrease in menstruation, signaling the start of menopause.
“Over the past 20 years, our knowledge of how the menopause transition might contribute to cardiovascular disease has been dramatically evolving,” said Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H., FAHA. “We have accumulated data consistently pointing to the menopause transition as a time of change in cardiovascular health. Importantly, the latest American Heart Association guidelines that are specific to women, which were published in 2011, did not include the data that is now available on menopause as a time of increased risk for women’s heart health. As such, there is a compelling need to discuss the implications of this accumulating body of literature on this topic.”
Menopause Transition Warnings
This scientific statement aims to raise awareness for women and their healthcare providers about possible adverse cardiovascular health risks during midlife and the menopause transition. It emphasizes the importance of adopting prevention strategies early in life, as this is a critical window for applying early intervention strategies that could reduce the risk of heart disease. The statements suggest that health care professionals may consider an aggressive, prevention-based approach for women during the menopause transition to decrease the probability of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.
In addition to the research focused on the use of hormone therapy, the scientific statement provided an overview of other risks related to menopause. Some of the most common symptoms felt with menopause have a correlation with cardiovascular diseases, such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and depression.
Metabolic syndrome risk has also been found to increase with menopause, which includes abnormal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood glucose levels.
Overall, lifestyle and behavioral interventions are critical to maintaining cardiovascular health and reducing heart disease during the menopause transition. Physical activity and nutrition must focus on those experiencing menopause to reduce the risk of any possible cardiovascular events.